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Heard on Morning Edition, CultureShift

This Community Hosts an Annual Catholic Blessing For Semi Truck Drivers

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Image credit: Erik Paul Howard

Our Lady Queen of Angels church plays host to an event at the intersection of faith, family and the local economy. Detroit StoryMaker Erik Howard takes us there.

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It’s a Saturday afternoon in Southwest Detroit and 50 to 60 community members gather at Our Lady Queen of Angels church.

It’s a normal service. Families fill the wooden pews. There’s music, taking communion. But there’s one big difference between this service and a traditional one: Outside of the church 40 semi trucks line the parking lot.

This is the Blessing of The Semis.

I always have God with me when I’m on the road, because you never know if you’re gonna come home alive.” ⁠— Eric Torrijos, a local semi truck driver

Juan Rodriguez, 27, stands with his wife and their daughter as they prepare to receive a blessing from Father Beto.Erik Paul Howard
Erik Paul Howard

Juan Rodriguez, 27, stands with his wife and their daughter as they prepare to receive a blessing from Father Beto.

Erik Howard is a photographer and community leader in Southwest Detroit. For WDET’s Detroit StoryMakers, he took us to Our Lady Queen of Angels church for the blessing to understand how faith and the local economy intersect in this historically immigrant-heavy area of southeast Michigan. 

I always have God with me when I’m on the road,” says Eric Torrijos, a local semi truck driver. “Because you never know if you’re gonna come home alive.”

Though the blessing is the focus on the event, it soon turns into a party, with food and a bouncy house. It’s a fun way to celebrate working in a field that’s otherwise pretty difficult. 

Click on the player above to hear Erik Howard take us to the Blessing of The Semis and see photos of the event below.


More than 30 semi trucks line the parking lot at Our Lady Queen of Angels on Martin near Michigan Avenue during the special mass for the Blessing of The Semis in Southwest Detroit.Erik Paul Howard
Erik Paul Howard

More than 30 semi trucks line the parking lot at Our Lady Queen of Angels on Martin near Michigan Avenue during the special mass for the Blessing of The Semis in Southwest Detroit.

Drivers and their families attend a special mass at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic church in Southwest Detroit dedicated to the Blessing of The Semis. The blessing is an annual event organized by semi truck owner-operators from Southwest Detroit to gather with their families to honor and celebrate faith, community, career and culture. Erik Paul Howard
Erik Paul Howard

Drivers and their families attend a special mass at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic church in Southwest Detroit dedicated to the Blessing of The Semis. The blessing is an annual event organized by semi truck owner-operators from Southwest Detroit to gather with their families to honor and celebrate faith, community, career and culture.

William Barry and his family stand in front of the truck he operates to receive a blessing from Father Beto at this year’s Blessing of The Semis at Our Lady Queen of Angels in Southwest Detroit.Erik Paul Howard
Erik Paul Howard

William Barry and his family stand in front of the truck he operates to receive a blessing from Father Beto at this year’s Blessing of The Semis at Our Lady Queen of Angels in Southwest Detroit.

Fernando gets under the hood to check things out before heading from the Blessing of The Semi Trucks at Our Lady Queen of Angels to the celebration afterward.Erik Paul Howard
Erik Paul Howard

Fernando gets under the hood to check things out before heading from the Blessing of The Semi Trucks at Our Lady Queen of Angels to the celebration afterward.

Erick Torrijos prepares his families' trucks for the Blessing of The Semis at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic church.Erik Paul Howard
Erik Paul Howard

Erick Torrijos prepares his families’ trucks for the Blessing of The Semis at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic church.

Drivers put their heads and hands together to help a fellow trucker at the celebration following the Blessing of The Semis. The tractor got stuck in soft gravel entering the celebration.Erik Paul Howard
Erik Paul Howard

Drivers put their heads and hands together to help a fellow trucker at the celebration following the Blessing of The Semis. The tractor got stuck in soft gravel entering the celebration.

The Blessing of The Semis is a community event with food and a bounce house.Erik Paul Howard
Erik Paul Howard

The Blessing of The Semis is a community event with food and a bounce house.

People on Michigan Avenue and Cicotte capture photo and video of the convoy of trucks moving through Southwest Detroit from the Blessing of The Semi Trucks at Our Lady Queen of Angels to Campbell off of Fort Street as they travel to the celebration afterward. Erik Paul Howard
Erik Paul Howard

People on Michigan Avenue and Cicotte capture photo and video of the convoy of trucks moving through Southwest Detroit from the Blessing of The Semi Trucks at Our Lady Queen of Angels to Campbell off of Fort Street as they travel to the celebration afterward.

 


Erik Paul Howard, Detroit Storymaker

Erik Paul Howard is a photographer and is the co-founder of Inside Southwest Detroit, Young Nation, and The Alley Project in Southwest Detroit. He has been building community through cultural, place-based, and media projects in Southwest Detroit for over 20 years.


Tad Davis, Audio Producer

Tad Davis is a Detroit-based audio producer. He graduated from Adrian College in May of 2019 and is excited to be in the city telling stories.


This post is a part of Detroit StoryMakers.

WDET's Detroit StoryMakers initiative empowers local storytellers in bringing Detroit's stories to life. Support for this initiative comes from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs and through matching gifts from station donors.  

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