Notre Dame's burning has Detroit pastors worried for their own churches

The Ste. Anne church in Detroit may not be as old or internationally well-known as Notre Dame, but that doesn't detract from its significance to the city.

"Ste. Anne's was the only place of worship in the city of Detroit," said Chuck Kosanke, a pastor at the church, "until after the war of 1812. So for over 100 years."


Located in southwest Detroit, its considered the second oldest continuing parish in the U.S.. Founded the same week the city it sits in was in 1701, the gothic structure with towering steeples and historic prominence is the parish's seventh building.

Like Notre Dame cathedral, it has its own rose window and carries a similar historical and cultural importance to Detroit that the French church does to Paris. It's also in need of restorations because similar to its Parisian cousin, it too has a wooden roof.

Following the blaze that tore through Notre Dame's wooden roof, Kosanke is nervous.

"Personally, when I saw the fire and the smoke, my heart just sank," said the Monsignor." But also, because I'm leading the restoration of Ste. Anne's it also gave me pause that 'wow, we really have to be so careful.'"

Kosanke has visited the Notre Dame several times, even helping lead holy week services at the cathedral in 1991. After watching the steeple fall and the roof collapse, he said there is real concern among and other religious leaders at other churches. 

"As much as there's brick and mortar and a lot of our churches especially the old ones (are built from brick and mortar), the roofs are all wood," he said. "The roofs and steeples are all wood."

The restoration won't be cheap. It comes with a price tage of $15 million and needs to happen soon. With creeping water damage, the potential for damages is closer than they once appeared. There are plans to spray a fire retardant in order to prevent tragedies like what happened Paris.

French President Emmanual Macron has promised the Notre Dame will be repaired in five years. No matter the time table or severity of restoration, Kosanke thinks any structure that's damaged loses a part of its original self. That doesn't mean its most important piece is lost however.

"As much as you can restore something to look like it did, it's not the same," he said. "Brick and mortar is really secondary to the actual people."

Even so, any efforts in place to maintain the integrity of historical architecture will be made.

"...but obviously even though they're secondary, they still have a great deal of importance. They were really built to inspire and that's exactly how people feel when they enter this church."