St. John Fisher University Parish

3665 E Walton Blvd
Auburn Hills
Senior Pastor: 
Fr. Jerry Brzezinski
Roman Catholic
St. John Fisher is a welcoming, warm, and upbeat Catholic community with much to offer the prayerful and forward thinking believer of today.

St. John Fisher may best be understood by the large sign inside the church at the exit:  Servant's Entrance.   One of the first things a visitor to Mass notices (besides the fabulous Music Group) is our innovative approach to liturgy: don't be surprised when everyone starts to chat with their neighbors for a bit after the homily (which often includes a reflection by one of our ministry leaders).  We are serious about community within SFJC; when you sign up, you are introduced at Mass and get a permanent name tag to wear to help everyone get to know everyone else in our small community.  We have two weekend Masses (5:30 pm Saturday and 10:00 am Sunday); a small Mass on Thursday at 7:15 pm and a young adult liturgy at 7:00 pm on the 2nd Sunday of the month.  We have exciting activities (education, service and just  plain fun) for families, youth, college students at Oakland University,  singles, old, young,  you name it.  If you're a Catholic or Christian interested in a community that supports truly living the Gospel values, you really should check us out! 

Our extensive outreach, justice and peace activities include everything from relationships with communities in impoverished countries to extensive services for the homeless in our county to the Catholic Community Response Team in Pontiac to the weekly peace demonstrations, and just about everything in between.  Twenty or more folk show up for the 8:00 am Sunday morning monthly Justice and Peace meeting (we serve a lot of coffee and a light breakfast!) to work on systemic change.   Go to the website for the many other Parish ministries -- there is something for just about anyone:  Fr. Jerry is most supportive of members who have ideas on activities that help meet our Mission to be the presence of Christ in the world today actively announcing the Kingdom of God in every aspect of our lives by the gospel quality of our sharing and our service.  We just completed a Year of Renewal with large and small-group discussions of who we are and where we are going.  I have belonged to a small SJF sub-community for many years; we meet monthly to explore issues related to spirituality and celebrate community.  



St. John Fisher is the closest "Catholic" parish to our house, so we have attended there to check it out and occasionally out of desperation (snow storms).

First, it is difficult to consider it Catholic as they have added and removed from the mass, disobey and disregard the teachings of the Church in regards to mass, and have decidely non-Catholic views in many areas.  As another reviewer mentioned, they add a discussion period after the homily.  Supposedly it is to talk about the homily, but the conversation was actually small talk: "How's your family?  Did you hear about ...?"  The times we have gone the "homiletic reflection" has been by someone other than the priest or deacon.  This is clearly forbidden by the Church:  From statements made by their parish staff, St. John Fisher clearly is not pro-life and when I asked about their pro-life group, she laughed and said "That is a national issue.  We don't talk about that here."  However, given their many "social justice" and environmentalism groups, this appears to be the only "national" issue they won't discuss.  And their previous Director of Religious Education, Sr. Mary Ann Dixon, is a member of Call to Action, a banned pseudo-Catholic group.

Second, we found it very unwelcoming.  It was very cliquey and the nametags made it worse.  Nothing makes you stand out more than being the only person without a nametag.  Perhaps if they actually greeted those without nametags, that might be good, but we've been ignored the times we go there.  Perhaps it is because we have three kids.  The church is very echoey, so any noise by a child is heard everywhere and greeted with stares.  Oddly, I thought Catholics were to be open to large families (and ours isn't even that large - and fairly quiet).  While it would have been interesting to discuss the homily after the homily (or even better, after mass), as outsiders we were not included in the small talk.

Third, they say they are a university parish.  While the liberal leanings peg it as a university chapel, they seem to do a better job of pushing university students away from Catholicism than helping their faith.  The local megachurch brags about how many ex-Catholics they have gotten from St. John Fisher.  When students get to St. John Fisher and find it nothing like their solid parishes they attended growing up, they often leave for the local megachurch which has much more substantial theological teaching.

I hate giving such a negative review to a Catholic parish, but hopefully it will be helpful for two groups.  First, people evaluating where to attend should know what type of parish St. John Fisher is.  Second, the people at St. John Fisher should know how they are perceived so that they can make changes to become a better, more welcoming, and more Catholic parish.

Schwa, the article you quoted referenced "Redemptionis Sacramentum," which states: "... the homily on account of its importance and its nature is reserved to the Priest or Deacon during Mass."  However, the same source continues:  "As regards other forms of preaching, if necessity demands it in particular circumstances, or if usefulness suggests it in special cases, lay members of Christ's faithful may be allowed to preach in a church or in an oratory outside Mass in accordance with the norm of law. This may be done only on account of a scarcity of sacred ministers in certain places, in order to meet the need, and it may not be transformed from an exceptional measure into an ordinary practice, nor may it be understood as an authentic form of the advancement of the laity. All must remember besides that the faculty for giving such permission belongs to the local Ordinary and this as regards individual instances; this permission is not the competence of anyone else, even if they are Priests or Deacons."

For the sake of clarity, when you indicate that the "homiletic reflection" was given by a person other than a priest or deacon, was this homiletic reflection given during Mass in a church and in the absence of any apparent emergency circumstances? 

Have you reported your concerns to the local bishop?

The times I have seen this at SJF, it was in the context of a normal Mass and the priest introduced the speaker, which was not another priest nor a deacon.

I have not reported it to the local bishop, in part as I am not sure the method one goes about reporting abuses of the Mass. I am not sure about our present archbishop, but my perception of the archbishop who recently retired was that he let a lot of things slide even with full knowledge of the abuse. After all, we are the archdiocese that houses Bishop Gumbleton.

Since St. John Fisher is not my parish, I also let it go. They know they are abusing the mass, going against the GIRM, and ignoring the teaching of the Catholic Church. However, I do feel this is an appropriate forum to warn others who are looking for a church to attend or visit that they should not expect a mass in compliance with Rome should they go to St. John Fisher.

From Redemptionis Sacramentum:

#184:  Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ's faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.  It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop.  This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.

The bishops for the Archdiocese of Detroit are listed at:



Thanks for the info!

I do know that a bishop of an adjacent diocese had this specific liturgical abuse mentioned to him by Pope John Paul II because of another university parish that had frequent homiletic reflections by the laity. Apparently Rome can take that quite seriously.

All too many -- especially "campus 'churches?' " are leaning WAY too far into modern life living -- and not with true teachings of the ways of True Salvation.   Many are no more than Sunday morning social clubs.


Apparently you have critics - congratulations!

Care to respond to their concerns

Sounds like you aren't into what the Holy Father is currently propagating

Wow!  To respond honestly to the criticism, I think we need to acknowledge that there are at least two 'types' of Catholics today:  those who would like to see the church move forward in the Vatican II Council direction, and those who would like to reverse that direction (no matter how they might word that reversal).   There are Catholics who feel that working towards a just and peaceful world are most importantcritical, and others who believe that following the directives of Rome are the  most critical.  Those in the former groups tend feel most comfortable at SJFC.  There are many other Catholic Churches in the area for those in the latter groups.  Personally, I think a study of the history of our church demonstrates there has always been room  for more diversity than is today acknowledged. 

Re:  Pro-life activities.  Certainly, many in the Catholic Church have seized upon abortion as the one or even the major issue of injustice in the world today.    My personal view is that there are a great number of justice/peace issues to work on, and I prefer to reduce abortions by helping create a world where women are not so desperate as to want one.  I have never spoken to anyone at SJFC who could remotely be considered 'pro-abortion.'   If anyone wanted to start a group to work on specifically the abortion problem in other ways, I am certain they would be welcomed here. 

I am not concerned that there are people who have 'tried' SJFC find their faith home in another church, Catholic or not.  If that faith or church sustains them and nurtures their spiritual growth, I wish them well.  I am concerned that people who share the desire to bring gospel values into modern life living (as one critic phrased it) have a place to go to do so.  SJFC is probably more suited to those who want to take Jesus' teachings and implement them,  than to those who want to focus on Catholic theology and belief systems.  And, yes, I'm aware that there will be Catholics who condemn me for this attitude/approach.  I can only say that there have been many Catholic beliefs that have changed (Copernicus is finally acknowledged to be correct!) and others surely will in time because they are hopelessly disengaged from today's realities and do not stem from the earliest Church experiences (such as the rule against priests' marrying which began in the medieval  ages to prevent property from being passed on to an eldest son rather than returning to the church organization).  Not so with the teachings of Jesus; these are necessary to living in the Kingdom of God. 

I am sincerely grieved  that anyone without a nametag felt ignored at SJFC; I try to seek  out people without tags and ask them if they are guests or visitors.  I also have had times where I get involved catching up with people I know and I bet I  missed someone without a tag.  I have so often felt lost when visiting a large congregation; it hasn't occurred to me that anyone might feel that way in a small one!   I will take this criticism to heart and communicate it to other members; thank you for sharing your experience.  YES, the time of talking (actually called "Friendly Time") after the homily is often used to just get to know our neighbors -- but that is regarded as a positive thing to learn more about our community members.   How can be be in community with one another unless we know each other.  I cannot apologize for it, but accept that this is offensive to our critics.

To my critics, I send only good wishes as we grow (perhaps through different means) in Christ!  Peace be with you, now and always.  Susan.

I've often said that the Catholic Church has a large number of Protestants still in it and those who would ignore the teaching magisterium of the Church would certainly qualify. Catholicism is not supposed to be like Protestant denominations where everyone gets their own interpretation of theology. We don't rely solely on Sacred Scripture According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (85) '"The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.' As Catholics, we don't get the option to reject Sacred Tradition and the teaching Magisterium of the Church in favor of sola scriptura. That would make us Protestants.

It also means recognizing that the doctrine and dogma of the Catholic Church may have evolved but has not changed where it would contradict a previously held position. Celibacy of the clergy is a discipline implemented by the Spanish Council of Elvira in 305 AD, but St. Epiphanius speaks of celibacy as implemented by the apostles. (And Copernicus's heliocentricity is still wrong as the sun is not the center of the universe.)

Much of what I believe to be wrong with St. John Fisher has been expressed eloquently by Susan. While still claiming the name Catholic, they reject and despise Catholic teaching. Whether it is being involved in dissident Call to Action, protesting for female ordination at the Ordination Mass, or going against the bishops and voting for pro-abortion candidates, they have chosen to separate themselves from the Magisterium and Tradition of the Catholic Church.

The mission of social justice and remaining faithful to Catholic teaching are not mutually exclusive. I have known many faithful parishes that have excellent social justice programs. But social justice is only one portion of Catholicism and cannot be considered the most important aspect of Catholicism. It is not the Great Commission. It is not a mark of the Church. It is important - as expressed in Matthew 25 - but it must be done in concert with the whole of Church teaching.


As for the "Friendly Time", community within the church is important, but it not for the confines of the mass. I've been to many parishes that are just as friendly, but keep chatting until after mass. Living nearby, I've heard many who have visited St. John Fisher find "Friendly Time" rather off-putting.


I sincerely hope that St. John Fisher will grow and change; that they will accept and relish their Catholic identity; and that they will understand that they are the local representative of God's established church on earth, not just one faith or church to nurture spiritual growth. And I wish them the love and peace of Christ as they journey.

Please tell us, Susan -- A Catholic church [or ANY church for that matter] that does not promote the Pro-Life beliefs?

If this be the case -- is it just because of liberal campus life - and the loss of belief in the value of life and morals?


There really appear to be some problems here. I though this was about rating churches not about airing dirty laundry.

Susan - thank you for your gracious and civil response to others comments and criticisms.  

In the past 12 months, I have had contact with 4 different religious orders (not sure the proper language - I'm speaking of 4 different convents and nuns from different areas of this country).    All four orders our under investigation by the Vatican because they have been operating under the Vatican II Council direction for many years now.  Sr. Joyce indicated it is an epidemic and that most convents in the U.S. are being investigated. That seems to say more about the Vatican than it does for the convents.

I am in awe of the work that these convents have been doing in serving God and community.  To think they will now be punished for following the earlier Council direction seems very alien to me.  

Peace be with you. Elaine






Could you please clarify how these orders of nuns interpret Vatican II differently in their service to God and community that might be different than the interpretation of the Vatican?  What specific direction of Vatican II do you understand the nuns as having followed that has resulted in investigation?

Hi, Rob -- thought I'd reply just to you on this question.  I think you would need to talk with individual orders; I can only give you my general understanding from some of the sisters I am acquainted with.  My understanding is that what has changed in the past ?20 maybe years is that the Vatican/cardinals/bishops has moved to a pre-Vatican II stance on most issues that were a part of the Vatican II Council outcomes.  The women religious provide services in many areas (health, education, etc.) and have taken leadership roles in discussion of controversial issues.  This is less acceptable iin a time of clericalism and centralization of power/control.

Perhaps your background is different or more extensive than mine, in which case I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.  

Peace, Susan 

First of all, thank you Jim and Elaine for your kind words.  Indeed, the Vatican 'review' of the women's religious orders is  one more indication of the Vatican's current fearful efforts at control.  The women religious have done so much work in both charity and justice in this country, it is a shame they are rewarded  with suspicion -- rather reminds one of a bloodless Inquisition, and similar to the manner in which forward-thinking Catholic theologians and even periodicals such as the Jesuits' America mag (with the forced resignation of the editor a few years ago) are under constant threat  of censorship.  I believe all  this stems from a backlash to Vatican II. 

Despite the recent Pew Trust study showing that the numbers of Catholics in the USA is plummeting without the influx of the Mexican (yup, many 'illegal') immigrants, the response from the hierarchy tends to be .  .  . well,  not much.  Anyone who questions whether priests should be ony male,  or forced (vs. the ancient optional approach) into celebacy is rapidly shut down.  My relatives who are of the Catholic 'right' tell me they are perfectly OK with the church being smaller -- only those they deem the 'real' Catholics should remain.  However,  I have no intention of leaving; this is my church and I refuse to be ousted by those who wish to draw barriers and walls, that in their approach are such a contrast to what Jesus taught. 

And yes, per the note about the former Director of Religious Education at SJFC,  I am also a member of CTA.  Call  to Action is an organization founded by Cardinal Dearden of Detroit after Vatican II to help reform the church.   Was Cardinal Dearden also unfit to be a Catholic?  Any progressive Catholic might want to check them out online, and also the National Catholic Reporter.

I  think arguing over what is 'real' Catholicism  is pointless.   There are many churches/parishes for conservative Catholics to attend.  If this is where the Spirit calls them, I wish them well.  I only point out that progressive Catholics also need and deserve a home, and should not be ostracized because of the post-Vatican II backlash.  This website provides a service for people who are searching for a church or parish.  Anyone who, from my original  entry or the critics' response feels drawn to SJFC is most welcome to come and explore with us.  Anyone who finds us not to their liking has other options; a little 'live and let live' would be a good thing here.   We are, after all, one in Christ; peace be to all!   Susan


Thanks for your generous spirit

As I stated in another thread, and think it would also apply here -- may I interject an important thing to either side:

Christ's Church is a Hospital for sinners --- NOT a haven for Saints. --- ;>)

It should have a proper "nursing staff" -- with the purpose of getting sinners on the path to "wellness".

It should use the "medicine" Christ himself disperses ---- and NOT use "experimental drugs" on the "patients" !!


We joined SJFC nine years ago - it was recommended to us by a Lutheran friend who new about SJFC and new us and felt that SJFC would be a place where we would feel welcomed. We went to our first Mass and found "friendly time" very friendly - at that time no one had name tags! Those were added later so that we would get to know each other by name.

We have become very involved in a number of ministries and many of our closest friends are people we have met through SJFC. We are so thankful that our dear friend steered us toward this community of faithfilled people.

All are welcome here.


St. John Fisher Chapel describes itself as aiming to be "inclusive," "[a]cknowledging the image of God in all persons regardless of race, creed, gender, status or sexual orientation," and ministering to "all demographic groups."  What does your chapel teach on matters concerning sexual orientation, in comparison with that of other Catholic churches?

Rob, SJFC (as far as I know) does not 'teach' anything about sexual orientation.   We simply welcome everyone, which in no way conflicts with the teachings of the Catholic Church.  I think that the assumption at SJFC (certainly my belief) is that everyone who comes to SJFC is trying to grow in their response to the Spirit, in Christ; as a community, we support each other in that growth.  If you will pardon a brief digression (I know this is a website to rate/critique churches/parishes), I feel compelled to add here that my personal concern is for the broader issues of intolerance, injustice and outright cruelty in our country towards people of differing sexual  orientations (as well as differing in everything from race to immigration status); it is these things I see as needing to change in response to Christ.     Peace, Susan

I have limited time to continue replying to those who disapprove of SJFC and/or myself -- but had to add one more thing as I realized I missed  some of the comments on the 'abuse' of the Mass via lay homilies.  I may not have clarified that our priest/pastor always gives the homily; his homily is followed  (sometimes) by a reflection by a lay person.  I value both.  Our pastor was the Vicar for many years, is well respected at the Archdiocese and is in no danger of violating any church law.  

With that, I sign off permanently, wishing everyone all the best and the peace of the Lord!  Yours in Christ, Susan

 Susan--Thank you for taking the time to post this.  

I found this site just this morning--July 4--by following a link in an article in the Huffington Post.  

I've been searching for a spiritual home for a number of years.  After reading these posts, I looked at the parish website and it seems that St. John Fisher is a possiblity.  I live just down the road in Bloomfield Hills, and will attend services very soon.

Again, thank you.  Sue

Which is what we mean by

"find a church that fits"