With Michigan quickly becoming the Hollywood of the Midwest, celebrities can be spotted
dining in local restaurants and shopping at upscale boutiques.
But only one found a home away from home at a local church.
Actor Martin Sheen, who has starred in movies such as “Apocalypse
Now” and the TV series “The West Wing,” visited several of Detroit’s historic churches while
in Michigan recently filming the political thriller, “The Double.”
But the devout Catholic
found a special spot in his heart for St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Detroit.
“His comment to me was that our pastor, Father Tod Laverty,
is a remarkable human being, and it was Tod’s kindness and sermons that kept bringing him back while he was here in
Detroit,” music director Aaron Kaleniecki said. An Allen Park resident,
Kaleniecki had a chance to spend some time with the star and found him very down to earth.
“Mr. Sheen was at
several of our worship services, where he always stayed after and signed autographs or took photos for as long as it took
until everyone was satisfied,” Kaleniecki said.
The community-oriented church
also appealed to Sheen for its outreach center, which feeds and provides assistance to roughly 1,400 people weekly.
“He took a liking
to our priest, who’s a great speaker and knows how to get a message across,” he said.
As Sheen became a regular
face in the crowd, the music director thought of a special way to make him feel at home. “I did some research on him, and found out that he had a place in his heart for the tune ‘How Can I Keep
from Singing,’” he said.
While online, Kaleniecki
read several articles about the star performing the song on Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion”
and at commencement addresses.
“When I saw him come
into church one Saturday, I decided to use that hymn, and he lit up like a Christmas tree when I announced it,” Kaleniecki
said. “I thought it would be nice to do for him.” After the service,
Sheen rushed over to thank him for including the hymn, and Kaleniecki invited him to the church’s annual block party.
“The St. Al’s
block party is an event that we throw for the people in Detroit, many of whom are homeless and visit our center weekly,”
he said. “Our parishioners and friends do all of the volunteering so
it is a great mix of all walks of life — a real taste of the good that happens in Detroit.”
This year, Kaleniecki said
the event was even more memorable when Martin Sheen walked in.
“He hung out for almost
two hours, having hot dogs with myself and the pastor while signing autographs and taking photos with everyone who wanted
Before Sheen returned to
California last week, he sent Kaleniecki and the church a note of thanks.
“He basically thanked
us for the hospitality…and left his contact information if he could help us down the road.”
Actor Martin Sheen, left, with Allen Park resident Aaron Kaleniecki, music
director at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Detroit. Sheen regularly attended Mass at the parish while in town filming his
political thriller, “The Double.”