This is not going to be about what you think!
This morning I made a Pastoral Visitation to St. Stephen parish in Valrico. As you know from being at Mass today, the universal Church celebrated the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul because the Holy Father declared this year to be the year of St. Paul. Before his conversion and change of heart, Saul (aka Paul) was one of those identified as participating in if not organizing the stoning to death of the deacon and proto-martyr Stephen (there’s the connection to the title).
St. Stephen is a growing parish. This morning alone eighteen families registered and four couples came asking for convalidation of their invalid marriages. St. Stephen’s registers new parishioners every Sunday so this was just a normal Sunday. The 9:30am and 11:30am Masses were packed with people standing and they were fine Eucharistic celebrations with good music, attention to detail in the liturgy and I will humbly leave it to others to judge the quality of the homily.
At the moment the parish works off of two pieces of property approximately one and a half miles from each other. Their original site on Bellshoals Road contained the Church, church offices and hall. A beautiful piece of property on Boyette Road was donated by a parishioner and currently contains the rapidly growing school. The parish is looking forward to the day it will have a new worship space (aka Church), hall and offices on the site of the school (about a fifteen million dollar project.) They have steadily paid down a major debt on the new school and will soon be well positioned to think future. It is a lively community with great leadership, priests and people, and a great future.
I finished the day with a celebration of yet a third Mass at St. Paul’s parish in St. Petersburg on this their special day – also a great celebration. Congratulations to Father William Swengros and Monsignor Robert Gibbons for providing me and God’s people with great Eucharistic celebrations.