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The idea of a new parish in the Rochester Hills area started in 1988 when St. Andrew's Church in Rochester reached 2,500 families. Regional Bishop Dale Melczek encouraged Fr.Eugene R. Strain, the pastor of St. Andrew's, to look into the possibilities. Fr. Strain asked parishioner Ken Wigton to take him up in his single engine Mooney to reconnoiter. They found plenty of homes and home sites south of Avon and north of M59, roughly in the area between Livernois and Dequindre which constituted the southern boundary of St. Andrew's. Fr. Strain invited Bishop Melczek to take the next flight with him.
Cardinal Edmund Szoka blessed the project by establishing the new parish of St. Mary of the Hills canonically. The Cardinal next listed the parish for priests to apply as founding pastor. Fr. Strain spent a long time discerning the movement of the Holy Spirit and considering his own capabilities and the risk involved: there was no guarantee anyone would leave St. Andrew's because it was a great parish with everything built and practically no debt. On the other hand, the new parish would have nothing by way of buildings or money. Fr. Strain said "I thank God that I applied and that the assignment board and the Cardinal gave me the job which allowed me to experience the truth of Socrates' definition of happiness: stretching one's abilities for a good cause. Therefore, after 19 years of teaching seminarians as a member of the Society of St. Sulpice and after 18 years as a pastor, I had the rare honor and challenge of starting a new parish. Thank God for vocation!"