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.