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Diocese of St. Petersburg Sets New Vision to Grow Local Church & Help People in Need

Shortly after Bishop Gregory Parkes was installed as fifth bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg on January 4, 2017, people began to ask about his vision for the Diocese. Bishop Parkes set out to learn from the priests, religious, deacons, employees, and parishioners about their hopes and concerns.

Through listening sessions, gatherings and online surveys, Bishop Parkes heard common themes about the need to expand outreach efforts to the poor and vulnerable, youth and young adults and fallen away Catholics.

Now as the Diocese celebrates its 50th anniversary, Bishop Gregory Parkes has announced a new Mutually Shared Vision – “Courageously Living the Gospel” – that represents the many voices of the faithful who contributed with their input and prayers.

The Mutually Shared Vision provides clarity on what are the most pressing needs in the Church at this time and how the Diocese of St. Petersburg can address those needs.

The Mutually Shared Vision includes nine goals to achieve within the next three years in areas that have been identified by the Catholic community as having the highest need: Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Evangelization and Social Justice.

  • Each deanery will launch a Catholic Impact Initiative that addresses one local community issue and mobilizes cross-parish creativity to establish desired outcomes. Initiate implementation by December 31, 2019.
  • The Diocese will establish 8 – 10 new locations of affordable housing facilities for families and/or singles managed by Catholic Charities throughout the Diocese by the end of 2021
  • One hundred percent of parishes will establish and/or enhance youth ministry opportunities by July 1, 2020.
  • In support of this initiative, the Diocese will hire three diocesan regional Associate Directors of Youth and Young Adult Ministry by July 1, 2019.
  • The diocese will establish a new Catholic elementary school (location to be determined) to open for the 2021-2022 school year.
  • We will increase student participation by 1000% (4,000 individuals) at established campus ministry communities, and create new Catholic student communities for all local colleges and universities in the Diocese by Easter of 2021.
  • The Diocese will partner with pastors and parishes for successful assessment, training and implementation of effective evangelization and family ministry strategies, including hospitality and intercultural competency by Pentecost 2019.
  • Every parish will equip parishioners as Missionary Disciples who are inspired to invite and accompany others by Pentecost 2020.
  • All parishes will enhance or establish family ministries to respond to the diverse needs of families by Pentecost 2020.

To learn more, click here.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg Establishes the Nazareth House of Formation

This summer, the Diocese of St. Petersburg is introducing the Nazareth House, a new summer residence for seminarians to grow in faith and community while serving others. The house is named after the town where Jesus lived during his youth and young adult years.

“Nazareth is where our Lord grew and was formed for public ministry and where he worked as a carpenter. This house will also be a place where young men will be formed for public ministry and work for the good of their community,” said Bishop Gregory Parkes.

Five men who attend St. John Vianney College Seminary will be the home’s first residents. They moved in on June 1.

“We look forward to growing in brotherhood and continuing to discern the call,” said Seminarian Stephen Eschenfelder.

The young men are also looking forward to more time for prayer, growing closer to the Lord.

“Since we don’t have academic studies over the summer, we can place more of a focus on prayer,” said Seminarian Kenneth Keenan.

The home is located in St. Petersburg and the seminarians will spend most of their days working on the campus of St. Petersburg Catholic High School painting and sprucing up the classrooms. At the Nazareth House, the seminarians will pray morning and evening prayer together, as well as daily Mass. Additionally, twice a week the men will have spiritual formation talks by local priests. They will be guided by Diocese of St. Petersburg Vocations Director, Father Carl Melchior, who is overseeing the Nazareth House and all summer activities for the seminarians of the Diocese.

“We pray that these young men will form long-lasting friendships and also grow in their love of Jesus Christ as they pray together, gather for meals together, work together and of course, have fun together,” said Bishop Parkes.

Some of their free time will be spent learning how to cook from Father Anthony Ustick who is known for his culinary skills. Keenan shared that he will be learning Spanish from Sponge Bob Square Pants- the Spanish edition. Plus, these Nazareth House residents enjoy sports and will be heading outdoors for baseball, football and basketball to stay healthy body and soul.

The first five residents of the Nazareth House are listed below along with their home parish. Please keep these young men and all of our seminarians in your prayers as they continue to discern God’s call in their lives.

Kenneth Keenan, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Dunedin
Alejandro Posada, Christ the King Parish, Tampa
Mark DeSio, Blessed Sacrament, Seminole
Christopher Marte, St. Cecelia Parish, Clearwater
Stephen Eschenfelder, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Seminole

Faith and Tradition Unite Participants of the Diocese of St. Petersburg 50th Anniversary Mass

Six Florida bishops and the papal nuncio (the pope’s ambassador to the U.S.) gathered with clergy, religious and nearly one thousand faith-filled Catholics for a Mass of Thanksgiving on June 16, 2018, at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in honor of the Diocese of St. Petersburg’s golden jubilee.

“Today is a day of great joy for the Diocese of St. Petersburg as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our canonical establishment and we do so in a most appropriate way by celebrating the Eucharist, a word which means Thanksgiving and the Sacrament which is the sign of unity of our faith,” said Bishop Gregory Parkes, principal celebrant of the Mass.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio, delivered a short and uplifting message from Pope Francis at the start of the Mass.

“I am truly pleased to be here today in Florida’s Sunshine City. I have the special privilege of conveying to all of you the warm greeting, heartfelt congratulations and spiritual closeness of his holiness, Pope Francis. The Holy Father gladly unites with all of you in giving thanks to Almighty God for the abundant blessings of these past five decades,” said Archbishop Pierre.

Bishop Emeritus Robert Lynch who served as shepherd of the Diocese from 1996-2017, delivered the homily, reflecting on the historical context of our world in 1968 and the ongoing role of the Church in sharing Jesus with the world while comforting the hurting, hungry and homeless

“We have been constantly searching for and finding Jesus as our paramount task as Church in the Mass, in the Sacraments of the Church, in the migrants, in permanent residents, in the snowbirds. Making Jesus real, making Jesus present, making Jesus rule our hearts and habits is what we have sought to do these five decades,” said Bishop Emeritus Robert Lynch during his homily, which was followed by an applause. Click here to read Bishop Emeritus Lynch’s homily.

The Lamberts from St. Cecilia Parish in Clearwater have been part of the Diocese for 20 years since they moved into the area. They feel blessed to have been able to participate in the 50th Anniversary Mass.

“It’s a coming together of the whole family of our Church,” said Helen.

“Jesus is so present, especially in the Eucharist,” said John.

Camille Jowanna also participated in the Mass. She is principal of Bishop McLaughlin High School and attended Incarnation Catholic School in Tampa and was confirmed by Bishop McLaughlin.

“I’m here to join in the wonderful celebration of our diocese and its founding. I moved to Florida in 1971 so the Diocese of St. Petersburg has been a big part of my life,” said Jowanna.

Some of the diversity of the Diocese was represented in the Mass with one reading in Spanish. Also, prayers were read in seven different languages: Portuguese, English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Polish, Korean and Tagalog.

Richard Chalwe is a refugee from Zambia who is a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in St. Petersburg. He has been in the Diocese for 13 years.

“I’m here for the celebration of the golden jubilee. The Mass was so encouraging. I really liked the history presented by Bishop Lynch,” said Chalwe.

Due to limited seating, the Anniversary Mass was a ticketed event. However, the Anniversary Mass was video streamed online and broadcast on Spirit FM.

Bishop Parkes also blessed a newly unveiled mosaic at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle that depicts Father Juan Xuarez’s landing in St. Petersburg in 1528. The Spanish missionary priest was the first Catholic bishop who was appointed to serve in the United States. The mosaic was created by Tampa artist, Anne Marie Kearney of JapaStudios Mosaics.




June 17, 2018 will be “Diocese of St. Petersburg Day”

The Pinellas County Commission has announced that June 17, 2018 will be known as “Diocese of St. Petersburg” Day in honor of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese. On June 17, 1968, a Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle to establish the Diocese of St. Petersburg and to install the area’s first Bishop, Most Reverend Charles B. McLaughlin.

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long and County Administrator Mark Woodward presented a proclamation to Bishop Gregory Parkes in his office on June 8.

The proclamation shares seven reasons why June 17, 2018 should be recognized throughout Pinellas County as “Diocese of St. Petersburg Day.” The document highlights the 74 parishes and 7 missions in the Diocese serving approximately 470,000 Catholics. There are also 48 schools and early childhood centers providing a Catholic education to more than 12,000 students. The document also highlights the Diocesan commitment to reaching out to people who are vulnerable and on the peripheries of our community, as well as harmonizing with people of all faith backgrounds, serving people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and contributing to the moral foundation of the area.

“The Diocese of St. Petersburg has had a positive impact on the local community and the whole Tampa Bay region over the past 50 years. An impact that goes beyond faith,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long during the presentation.

For its 50th anniversary, Bishop Parkes has chosen the theme of “Gratitude, Joy and Hope.” He is asking everyone to remember the past with gratitude, celebrate the present with joy and look to the future with hope.

To view the proclamation recognizing June 17, 2018 as “Diocese of St. Petersburg Day,” click here.

To read about the impact the Diocese of St. Petersburg has had on this community over the past 50 years, click here.

If you would like to see highlights from our diocesan history, click here.


Announcement About Social Media Safety

The Diocese of St. Petersburg has become aware that at least one person was contacted by someone using Facebook Messenger pretending to be Bishop Gregory Parkes. Bishop Parkes does not contact individuals on social media using Facebook Messenger. Please report any suspicious activity to Facebook and do not respond.

When internet fraudsters mimic a legitimate individual, organization or business to trick consumers into giving out their personal information or money, it’s called phishing

We are seeking to help individuals stay safe while using social media, email or texting services.

Follow these tips from the Federal Trade Commission and protect yourself from hoaxes, email scams and phishing.

  • Be Aware! Legitimate organizations would never solicit sensitive personal information through insecure channels such as email, social media messaging or text messaging.
  • Ignore suspicious emails, social media and text messages from someone who claims to need your personal information or financial assistance.
  • To verify the legitimacy of an email, social media message or text message that you receive from any organization, including a church, call the office and speak to a representative who can assist.

10 Things You Can Do To Avoid Becoming a Victim of Fraud

Read more here:

Also, visit this website to learn about protecting your family online, visit



Diocesan 50th Anniversary Mass to be Video Streamed

The Diocese of St. Petersburg’s 50th Anniversary Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, June 16, 2018 at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle (5816 5th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, FL 33710).

Due to limited seating, the Anniversary Mass will be a ticketed event and will not be open to the public. However, the Anniversary Mass will be live video streamed online, and broadcast on radio for those who cannot attend in person.

Click here to view/download worship aid for the 50th Anniversary Mass.

Click here to learn about Diocese of St. Petersburg Day, June 17, 2018.

Click here to learn about the impact the Diocese of St. Petersburg had made on our community over the past 50 years.

About the Anniversary Mass:

  • Archbishop Christopher Pierre, the pope’s ambassador to the United States (known as an Apostolic Nuncio), has confirmed that he will be attending.
  • Five Florida bishops will also be in attendance.
  • Bishop Emeritus Robert Lynch will deliver the Homily.
  • Bishop Gregory Parkes will be the principal celebrant.
  • Priests, sisters, brothers, deacons, seminarians, teachers, administrators, parishioners and other representatives from ministries throughout the Diocese of St. Petersburg will be in attendance.
  • Banners that represent each of the Diocese’s 81 parishes and missions will be on display to highlight diocesan unity across our five counties of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Citrus, Pasco and Hernando.
  • The Mass will include a reading in Spanish. Also, the Prayer of the Faithful will have petitions in seven different languages, Portuguese, English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Polish, Korean and Tagalog.

Religious Freedom Week to be Held June 22 – 29

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced Religious Freedom Week 2018 will take place from June 22 to 29. The theme of the week is: “Serving Others in God’s Love.”  The Week begins with the Feast of Sts. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, and ends with the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, and includes the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist.

People of faith are committed to serving others in God’s love in healthcare, child welfare, migration and refugee resettlement, education, and more. Religious freedom protects the space in which we can continue to Join Catholics across the country to pray and act for the freedom to serve faithfully and with integrity. To share information about Religious Freedom Week with your community, a series of social media ads have been created which are available here.

Also, a series of prayers, reflections and activities relating to the importance of Religious Freedom are available here. (This initiative of the USCCB replaces “Fortnight for Freedom.”)

Diocese Documents 50 Year Impact on the Community

50 Years of Caring for the Community

On June 17, 2018, the Diocese of St. Petersburg will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its establishment. Bishop Gregory Parkes has chosen the theme of “Gratitude, Joy and Hope” for the Diocese’s golden jubilee. He is asking all Catholics to remember the past with gratitude, celebrate the present with joy and look to the future with hope. In this document, we recall the past 50 years with gratitude, recalling the impact we, as a people of faith, have made in this community we call home.  (Photo above shows Bishop W. Thomas Larkin meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1979.)

Every day, the Diocese of St. Petersburg ventures outside church walls to serve people in need, regardless of their religious affiliation. In fact, 75% of people served by Catholic Charities are not Catholic. Many parishes in our diocese have outreach programs, such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society, that serve the poor, hurting and suffering and many also support community-based programs. Twelve parishes currently have “twinning” relationships with churches in third world countries, such as the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba, to provide financial and human support. Through our charitable efforts, we have positively impacted the lives of many families and individuals. While some of the impact cannot be quantified, below is an overview of some of the ways we have had a positive impact on life in West Central Florida and Tampa Bay over the past 50 years.

For many of the early years, the Catholic Church in Florida relied on missionary priests from the Northeast, Ireland and Spain. Since its founding, 123 priests have been ordained to serve the people of God in the Diocese of St. Petersburg and there has been an intentional effort to foster the development of local vocations. Recent examples of homegrown priests are Father Kyle Bell, Father Lou Turcotte, and Father Tim Williford. They were all raised in the Tampa Bay area and on May 19, 2018, they were ordained as new priests for the Diocese of St. Petersburg by Bishop Gregory Parkes.

In 1969, after sanitation workers began to strike to protest unfair treatment, Bishop Charles McLaughlin helped to form Religious United in Action for Community (RUAC) and was elected the first chairman
. The goal was to help workers have better working conditions and to “unite in expression of our concern for the moral and physical welfare of all citizens.”

In 1986, Bishop Larkin established WBVM 90.5, a radio station that serves the community with the largest signal allowed by the FCC: 100,000 watts
. The station, now known as Spirit FM 90.5, provides hopeful and positive music, inspiring messages, weather alerts, community and event information to people of all faiths. Spirit FM currently reaches approximately 100,000 people each week.


In the late 1990s, the community of St. Joseph Parish in St. Petersburg helped to form CUCA – Congregations United for Community Action. The group marched against illicit drug use and governmental neglect while marching in favor of racial and religious reconciliation. Father Bill Mason, pastor of St. Joseph at the time, was one of the earliest co-leaders of CUCA. He remembered one meeting that seemed to capture St. Joseph’s role in getting the group off the ground. “We’d had a huge meeting at the Church of God in Christ,” he said. “At the end of the meeting, they would usually have people from each church stand up. When they called St. Joseph’s, there were so many of us that we overwhelmed even the home parish.”

In 1992, Bishop Favalora blessed a new 3,500 square foot worship center dedicated almost entirely to migrant families, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wimauma. The Mission was established in 1988.

During the 1990s, the Diocese strengthened its Migrant Ministries to meet the needs of migrants moving into the area. The Diocese was sensitive to their cultural needs. Under the leadership of Bishop John Clement Favalora, the Diocese recruited and assigned Spanish-speaking clergy to those areas with the highest concentration of migrant families. Four rural churches enhanced their migrant ministries: St. Clement (Plant City), St. Rita (Dade City), St. Anne (Ruskin) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Wimauma). They provided Masses and Bible studies in Spanish, social activities to help them feel welcome and social service and referral programs.

On October 15, 2003, three hundred people from all walks of life came together to celebrate a successful, decade-long effort to provide safe, affordable and dignified homes for farmworker families in the strawberry fields of Dover/Plant City. The San Jose Mission is a residential community and education/social services campus for migrant farmworker families.  We partner with community groups and Hillsborough County to provide English classes, clothing, and healthcare and educational opportunities to the families who live there.

Our commitment to providing affordable housing started with a focus on serving the elderly who were most in need of quality, affordable housing. The majority were widows who were living in squalor in retirement. By partnering with the Federal government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we have been able to assist the elderly. The first affordable housing property to be built for seniors located in the five counties of the Diocese of St. Petersburg is called King’s Manor. It was built at Christ the King Parish in Tampa in 1983.

Criteria for selection by HUD included financial need, location, demographics, and “strength of sponsor.” Sponsors had to show they are responsible members of the community, stable and not fly by night. “We’ve been around 2,000 years,” said James Sebesta, director of the diocesan real estate office, in 1997.

The Diocese started with 99 housing units in one facility for the elderly in 1983 and has since grown to 1,019 units in 14 facilities today.

Temporary shelter for the homeless is provided at Pinellas Hope, which was originally called Tent City. In 2007, the Diocese of St. Petersburg set out to respond to an urgent need to assist the homeless population.  Bishop Robert Lynch began a temporary housing site on 10 acres of diocesan land.  Named “Pinellas Hope,” it quickly grew under his guidance into a comprehensive outreach that provides food, shelter, safety and opportunities to build a dignified life for those most in need in our community. Bishop Lynch once referred to Pinellas Hope as “the miracle on 49th Street” because it was a coming together of the political world (county, city, municipalities) Catholic Charities, as well as Catholic and non-Catholic churches. Nearly 10,000 homeless men and women have been served at Pinellas Hope in the past ten years and 1.5 million meals have been provided. Additionally, apartment buildings with 156 efficiency units have opened at Pinellas Hope to provide permanent housing to individuals, some of whom are veterans.

In 2005, the Diocese also built Bethany Family Apartments for homeless or low-income families with a disabled family member located in Pasco County and in 2012 the Diocese assumed operations for Benedict Haven in Pinellas County, a home for men who live with severe mental illness.

The Pasco Women’s Shelter, a temporary homeless shelter for women and children, opened in 2013.

Between 2008 and 2017, the Diocese opened 8 affordable housing properties to serve low-income families on the verge of homelessness
. They are able to remain off the streets because we are able to provide affordable housing and/or financial assistance for rent.

In the 1980s and 1990s, AIDS was epidemic. The Diocese worked with the Federal Government, and Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties to establish housing for individuals with HIV/AIDS as well as mothers and children with HIV/AIDS.

The Christopher House, which started in 1995, was the first house for people living with HIV/AIDS opened by the Diocese of St. Petersburg. Mercy House, which opened in 1996, serves mothers and their children impacted by HIV/AIDS.

In 2006, Catholic Charities started the Pathways Direct Aid program that provides direct financial assistance to people facing a crisis, such as a loss of employment or illness. In that time, more than 2,000 people have received financial assistance for rent, medical bills, electricity, etc. totaling more than $1.6 million dollars. When you include the financial assistance provided by St. Vincent de Paul Society in our parishes over the past 50 years, the amount of direct aid provided to people in need over the past 50 years has exceeded $50 million dollars.

The Diocese has been assisting refugees since its early years. Catholic Charities and local parishes assisted with resettling Vietnamese refugees starting in the mid-1970s. Catholic families and parishes were asked to sponsor families and orphans were adopted through Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities has helped to welcome into our community more than 16,000 refugees. These refugees, who left their countries with no belongings, have received temporary housing, job assistance, language classes and other assimilation services. The refugees have arrived here from countries that have faced ongoing tragedies, such as Bosnia, Cuba and Syria.

The Diocese has a vital role in the academic and Christian development of students in West Central Florida. Whether students are enrolled in parish-based religious education or a Catholic school, the mission is to provide a faith-filled community where students can grow spiritually, academically, and socially.

There are 48 Catholic Schools and Early Childhood Centers in the Diocese of St. Petersburg that provide Catholic education to more than 12,000 students in the counties of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus. Since 1968, we have had more than 35,000 students graduate from Catholic high schools in the five counties of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

Adoption Services has served the adoption triad: birth parents, children, and adoptive families since 1964 through a coordinated set of services designed to identify infants and young children who are at risk of abuse, neglect, or abandonment by virtue of their parents not being ready, willing, or capable of parenting them, to find suitable, permanent homes for those children, and to provide supportive services to triad members such as search services for those who mutually desire to reunify with birth parents or adoptees. Currently Adoption Services, Diocese of St. Petersburg serves 4 dioceses across 25 counties.

IMPACT ON THOSE SEEKING PREGNANCY SERVICES AND POST ABORTION HEALING  The Foundations of Life Pregnancy Center Programs have served the Diocese since 1993 and are dedicated to addressing the needs of individuals facing the challenges of pregnancy and parenting and making positive life choices.  The program reflects the Church’s love for the lives of the unborn as well as for the health, welfare and development of parents and their babies. Foundations of Life, formerly Pregnancy Plus Medical, has grown from one center to 5 centers and currently provides help and hope to over 2,400 clients with almost 7,000 visits each year. Over 10,000 babies have been saved.

Project Rachel, post Abortion Healing program, is dedicated to promoting the healing of the wound of abortion in individuals.

Since 2000, Catholic Charities has provided medical care to people without insurance, many considered the working poor. We operate a medical bus that travels to high-need areas and offers medical care. Catholic Charities also operates three free medical clinics, located in Dade City, Wimauma and Dover. Since 2000, we have served 17,000 individuals in need of life-saving care.

Additionally, there are six Catholic hospitals overseen by the Bishop of our Diocese that were started by the Allegany Franciscans: St. Anthony’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital St. Joseph’s Hospital-North, St. Joseph’s Hospital- South, and St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.


The Catholic Church in West Central Florida includes 74 parishes and seven missions in five counties: Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas. There are 125,000 registered Catholic households, representing over 470,000 Catholics. Within the Diocese of St. Petersburg, there are also 27 elementary schools, 12 early childhood centers, two special needs schools, seven high schools, a Catholic university and three campus ministry programs, six Catholic hospitals, seven health care and medical centers, 10 homes for the chronically ill, 67 centers for social services/assistance, and four retreat centers.

Because of the growing number of Catholics in Florida, Pope Paul VI signed a Papal Decree establishing the Diocese of St. Petersburg on March 2, 1968. The area was formerly part of the Dioceses of St. Augustine and Miami.  A separate territory was needed to meet the pastoral needs of the growing Church. A new diocese in St. Petersburg would help unify priests, personnel and policy to serve the rapidly increasing population within the area.

On June 17, 1968, a Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle to establish the Diocese of St. Petersburg and to install the area’s first Bishop, Most Reverend Charles B. McLaughlin.

At the time of its establishment, the Catholic population throughout the Diocese of St. Petersburg was approximately 200,000 and the region consisted of 11 counties. In 1984, the six southern counties of the Diocese of St. Petersburg became part of the Diocese of Venice.

The Catholic faith has been a part of West Central Florida since Spanish missionaries arrived in the 16th century. With great courage, the missionaries risked and sometimes lost their lives for the sake of the Kingdom of God. They planted the seeds of the Catholic faith and those seeds scattered from place to place and the faith spread. These missionaries adhered to the great commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

In these last 50 years, the Diocese of St. Petersburg has realized many blessings because of the faith, sacrifice, generosity and spirit of the people who make up this vibrant and faith-filled community.

Since the Diocese was founded, nearly all of the 51 parishes established before 1968 have undergone renovations, expansions, and/or additions to accommodate growth and the need for larger worship spaces and new parish halls.

Additionally, 23 parishes have been established since 1968. The growth of parishes has mirrored the growth in the Tampa Bay region. Where pine trees, palmetto scrub, and swamps once stood, elegant houses of worship now grace the landscape. When parishes were established, the clergy and the community needed determination and faith to survive those early years. Masses were often celebrated in homes, restaurants, hotels and schools.  For example, the Largo Recreation Center served as a spiritual home for St. Catherine of Siena Parish before they constructed and dedicated a church building in 1978. There were many challenges along the way but parishes overcame the difficulties as a community. For example, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Citrus Springs was established in 1972. They soon discovered the property had sand drainage problems and cars would get stuck going in and out of the church. Eventually, the parking lot was paved and the project was done completely by volunteers.

Five missions have also been established in the last 50 years to meet the needs of ethnic communities. These missions are the Mercy of God Polish Mission in St. Petersburg (1991), Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Mission, Largo (1991), St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission, Tampa (1991), Immaculate Conception Haitian Mission, Tampa (2004), Our Lady of Guadalupe Migrant Worker Mission, Wimauma (1988).  St. Casimir Lithuanian Mission (1963) and the Catholic Student Center at U.S.F. (1966) already existed prior to the establishment of the Diocese.

Nine Catholic schools have opened in the last 50 years. Two schools opened in Pasco County: Bishop Larkin Catholic School (1989) and Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School (2003). Pope John Paul II School (originally called Central Catholic School of Citrus County) opened in Citrus County (1985). In Pinellas County, three schools have opened: Espiritu Santo in Safety Harbor (2001), Guardian Angels in Clearwater (1992) and Morning Star in Pinellas Park (1969). Two new schools have opened in Hillsborough County: St. Stephen Catholic School in Riverview (2001) and in 2013, construction of a new Catholic elementary school in northwest Hillsborough County was completed. The school was named after the beloved Mother Teresa of Calcutta who was canonized in 2016. Notre Dame Interparochial School (originally named St. Theresa) opened in Hernando County in 1985.

Twelve early childhood centers have also been established since 1968 that still serve young families who seek a faith-based setting for their pre-school children.

In 2007, the Bethany Center, a diocesan retreat and conference center, opened on two beautiful lakes in northern Hillsborough County. The facility’s modern amenities are immersed within a pristine natural setting. There are six cottages, each with 9 guest rooms, plus a gathering room for fellowship. The Bethany Center also has plenty of dedicated space for meetings, conferences, banquets and fellowship. Buildings were designed with floor to ceiling windows and large verandas overlooking the lakes.

In 2013, expansion and extensive renovations were completed on the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle. The project expanded the church from 25,713 to 33,546 square feet to accommodate larger celebrations in the Diocese’s “Mother Church.”  The renovation also included wider aisles with alcoves for shrines, new pews, floors, a new roof and a baptismal font designed for immersion.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg represents many cultural and ethnic groups, believers of all ages, income levels and education. In fact, Mass is celebrated in 12 languages. This diversity is a strength that builds up the fabric of our Church as the unique contributions of our cultural and ethnic groups are respected and celebrated.

During its 50-year history, our leaders have sought to build bridges with people of all faith traditions to serve people in joyous times and in times of tragedy and sorrow. Under the current leadership of Bishop Gregory Parkes, the Diocese has seen a renewed commitment to reach out to those on the peripheries of society and among the most vulnerable. Therefore, we can truly remember the past with gratitude, celebrate the present with joy and look to the future with hope!


Morning Star Catholic School Receives National Recognition as a School of Excellence

The National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) has named Morning Star School in Tampa as a 2018-2019 School of Excellence.

This honor is bestowed upon private special education schools throughout the United States that meet rigorous professional criteria and have demonstrated truly exceptional dedication, commitment and achievement in the field of special education.

“We strive to create an environment where children can reach their full potential. Our classrooms are small (10:1 teacher student ratio) and we really get to know our students and provide individualized instruction that meets their particular needs,” said Eileen Odom, Principal, Morning Star Catholic School, Tampa.

Morning Star School will be celebrating 60 years of serving the community during the 2018-2019 school year.

“We have a long history of meeting the needs of students with learning challenges in Tampa Bay,” added Odom.

The school serves students in grades 1-8 and there are close to 80 students currently enrolled. Over their history, they have received other honors as well. In 1983, Morning Star School was cited as one of the exemplary programs for special needs students in the Southeast from the publication Schools for the Learning Disabled: A Selective Guide to LD Programs.  Also, in 2011, the school was selected to be the first of 1,000 schools or communities in the world to receive a grant from Scotts Miracle-Gro’s initiative for the development of an interactive garden at the school.

Morning Star School is part of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. The school’s mission is to challenge students with learning disabilities and other related difficulties to succeed at their optimal level while creating readiness for growth, service and sharing God’s love in the global community.

EWTN to Air Documentary on the Florida Martyrs on June 6, 2018

Famed “Miracle Hunter” Michael O’Neill’s original EWTN series “They Might Be Saints” will air a special one-hour episode on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 10:00 p.m. EDT featuring the proposed Martyrs of la Florida. The cause for the Martyrs of la Florida was formally opened on October 12, 2015 in Tallahassee and is currently being prepared for submission to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.

View trailer for the special here:

About the Florida Martyrs

Officially designated as the cause of the Servants of God Antonio Cuipa and Companions, this cause includes 17 priests and religious, 7 Spanish lay men and women, and over 60 Native Americans who were killed in evangelizing and defending the Catholic faith in our nation’s colonial land known as la Florida. It is a seamless story that began in 1549 with the courageous landing of the Dominicans in Tampa Bay and ended in 1761 in Pensacola as three Apalachee Indians were killed trying to protect the Eucharist. Those being considered for canonization lost their lives in six of the current seven Florida dioceses and beyond.

About the episode

They Might Be Saints examines individuals on the path to sainthood. This episode will focus on some of the courageous and heroic witnesses who gave their lives for the Catholic faith during the Spanish missionary period. It was filmed on location at various sites in Florida and includes interviews with expert witnesses as well as several Florida bishops.

Additionally, prior to the episode’s debut on June 6th, Fr. Mitch Pacwa will have as his guests on EWTN Live at 8 p.m. EDT Fr. Len Plazewski, Vice-Postulator for the Florida Martyrs Cause and Heather Jordan, who serves on the Board of the Martyrs of La Florida Missions Inc.

More information about the Martyrs of La Florida can be found at