To complicate matters further, the parish itself has undergone a merger this summer and is no longer even called St. Stephen's, but is now named St. Dominic's. I mention all of this because it is an odd enough thing to return to a place of your youth after being away from it for so many decades. It is odder still to be documenting its waning and uncertain future. Perhaps it is the obvious parallel between our own mortality and the finite nature of all things, but as I took these photos I was very conscious of the one constant theme which over-arched the whole day: Change.
For the former students and faculty, for the members of the parish, the diocese, and even for the city of Saginaw itself, these photographs serve as a documentation of change. For many, change is something which is sad. And it can be that. It can also be very difficult and painful. Yet without change, growth can not take place. And without constant growth, one is not truly alive. No flower ever bloomed without first breaking out of a seed hull, pushing away topsoil, and getting blown by the wind.
I do not know what is to become of this building. The parish itself does not know. It seems in exceptionally good shape for its age, it is well-maintained, and with the exception of a few trouble spots it seems like it would be easy enough to continue serving the community in some fashion. But the reality is that unused buildings this size are nearly impossible to maintain over time in a financially viable manner. I am glad I had the opportunity to take these photographs now, while the uncertainty of the future which is reflected in them is still tempered by a measure of vibrance and vitality.
The following photos (in alphabetical order according to file name) are a small selection taken from the full documentation of the building and grounds. For those interested, there is a CD available containing the full set (approx. 100 photos). Email "admin[AT]jonderson[DOT]com" for details/to order.
I would like to take the time to once again thank the staff of St. Stephen's, now St. Dominic's, for allowing me unfettered access to the building and grounds to take these photos. While primarily for documentary and artistic purposes, I am sure that for some people they will be more than that. It is my hope that at least for some of them these photos may make the changes which the parish is undergoing a little more bearable, and provide a context underwhich they can more confidently continue to grow.