On Saturday, January 26, the first Catholic Church in Cuba to be built in 60 years was dedicated. St. Lawrence Parish in Tampa helped make it all possible.
In 2010, St. Lawrence initiated a fundraising campaign for the church with parishioners and Cubans from throughout Tampa and the country contributing. They raised $95,000, most of the funds needed for construction.
Father Ramón Hernandez, a Cuban immigrant and retired priest of the Diocese of St. Petersburg and Father Chuck Dornquast, parochial vicar of St. Lawrence Parish, attended the dedication of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish.
“It was incredible to see the church that was built by a small but faith-filled community in Sandino,” said Father Dornquast. While the church seats 200 people, it’s estimated that nearly 500 people attended the dedication.”
After the Cuban revolution in 1959, Catholic schools were closed, and many priests and religious communities were exiled. Public expressions of faith became taboo.
However, in 1998, Pope John Paul II visited Cuba and celebrated Mass for tens of thousands. This represented a shift in the communist regime to tolerate some expressions of faith.
Previously in Sandino, Mass, faith formation and Bible studies were held in local homes. Now, this new Church will bring more people together and strengthen the community of faith.
“Christ has placed the call to make disciples in each of us, whatever our circumstances. People in this tiny town of Cuba are finding a way to live out that call, despite their difficult circumstances,” said Father Dornquast.
Click here to view photos of Sacred Heart of Jesus Dedication. Photos by Father Chuck Dornquast.