Posts Tagged ‘Sacred Heart-Tampa’


Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The warm afterglow of yesterday’s ordination (see photos here) at St. Jude Cathedral was still with me upon waking this morning (Sunday). After the ordination I had a confirmation at 530pm at Sacred Heart, Tampa, for forty young women and men and today I have the Commencement Ceremony for St. Petersburg Catholic High School and tonight confirmation at St. Paul parish in Tampa for in excess of two hundred confirmandi. In sixteen years since becoming bishop, I have never attended a First Mass of a newly ordained. There is a very good reason for it. The first Mass at which he is the principal celebrant is a major moment in the life of every priest, something they dream of. Invite the bishop and the spotlight is at a minimum shared or sometimes “copped” as I can out-dress him any day! So despite some invitations from time to time, I make it a practice to stay away – it is the new priest’s day and his and Christ’s alone. As I pointed out in yesterday’s blog, the new priest concelebrates his first Mass at his ordination at my side.

I suspect but can not prove that every seminarian dreams more of his First Mass in his home parish more than the ordination day rite. Who will preach or should I, he might ask. Most choose someone else for this moment as they are nervous enough just being principal celebrant. I was ordained on the Saturday before Pentecost at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Miami at 11am and celebrated my First Mass as principal celebrant at 5pm at St. James parish in North Miami that same evening – getting everything over in nine hours but I do not recommend it as I was totally “wiped” by the end of the day and the dinner/reception at the parish hall which followed. I told both Fathers Amorose and Corcoran that they needed to especially enjoy this week-end as it would probably be the last time till their 25th anniversary that they would not have to worry about a homily for Sunday.

Generally the first Mass following ordination is in the ordinand’s home parish (see photos below) but today it does not end there. In successive weeks, they will both be celebrating “First Masses” in parishes where they have served as seminarians and deacons (St. Paul , Wellesley, Massachusetts and another parish in Newton for Father Corcoran and Nativity, Brandon, St. Joan of Arc, Boca Raton, and St. Paul’s, Tampa for Father Amorose to name just a few, I suspect). By that time the nervousness and anxiety has worn off and they are comfortable in their new roles. A very generous diocese has given them until July 2nd to report for their first assignments. Additionally, both of these men plan to attend the ordinations of some of their classmates around the country (Fr. Corcoran) and state (Fr. Amorose).

Parish communities rejoice in ordinations and first Masses and in addition to choirs preparing and servers polishing up, usually the Women’s Club works on a lovely reception for all who attend the First Masses immediately following. The Church celebrates its new ministerial life as well as the ordinand. But, for both men, there will come that moment in a few weeks when all the celebrations, concelebrations, ordinations, first Masses, etc. are over and Father reports to begin his first assignment and the beginning of the rest of his life. It is at that moment that he will experience that Gospel passage which is the title for this reflection of mine, “they rolled the stone before the tomb and all withdrew.” My associate Maria Mertens and her family have long been friends with the Amorose family and she attended Father Victor’s First Mass with her camera and took some pictures which I share with you below. Tom Wineman, a parishoner of Sacred Heart parish in Tampa, took a few photos of Father Timothy’s First Mass and graciously shared them with me to post as well.

Father Victor Amorose celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Light of Christ in Clearwater. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.


Father Victor Amorose celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Light of Christ in Clearwater. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.


Father Timothy Corcoran celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Sacred Heart in Tampa. Photo kindness of Tom Wineman.


Father Timothy Corcoran celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Sacred Heart in Tampa. Photo kindness of Tom Wineman.


Hope you enjoyed those. I am off to hand out sheepskins!



Sunday, May 20th, 2012

After a blog a day from Rome about the ad limina visit, regular readers may wonder what has happened to me. First, this week I paid for my sin of being gone for a week during the height of the confirmation, graduation and anniversary season. Additionally, it seems I broke a leg in Rome on Friday, the last day there. It was confirmed only on Monday of this week with an X-Ray which revealed a “hairline, stress fracture of the right fibbula.” Happily this type of break does not require either a cast or a boot, and one can continue to safely walk on it while it heals itself. Today (Saturday, May 19th) I had ordinations in the morning and a confirmation in the evening and my right leg was telling me at times it was far from pleased with me.

Deacon Timothy Corcoran and Deacon Victor Amorose at the beginning of Mass. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Ordinations this morning were simply wonderful. Deacons Tim Corcoran and Victor Amorose were rousingly welcomed into the priesthood by an almost full Cathedral. I have always been proud of our diocesan ceremonies since arriving here sixteen plus years ago. The music has always been extraordinarily appropriate and beautiful, made so by a succession of very talented music directors. Our diocesan Office of Worship consistently plans and executes a smooth and beautiful ceremony. Add to that the Cathedral staff who knock themselves out for such occasions, and one has the recipe for a successful liturgical experience. For most major diocesan functions such as ordinations and dedications of Churches, I am ably assisted by Father John Tapp, pastor of Holy Family parish in St. Petersburg, himself a graduate with a master’s degree in liturgy from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. For Cathedral only functions, a faculty member from St. Petersburg Catholic, John Christian is at my side, anticipating my every move and relieving  me as does Father Tapp from worrying about what I should be doing. Behind every successful bishop on ceremonies, there is usually a very capable Master of Ceremonies and today was no exception. In fact, Father Tapp and John Christian make even those being ordained relaxed (well mostly so).

Fathers Amorose and Corcoran were welcomed into the presbyterate by about eighty of our priests (click here to see photos). Ask those present what were the most moving moments and they would likely reply that it is a toss-up between the silent “laying on of hands by the bishop and attending priests” and the singing of the Litany of the Saints while those to be ordained lie flat on the floor.

The Litany of Saints. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

For myself, there is a moment at the end of the ordination rite itself after all the priests have given the new ordained the “greeting of peace” when I and the President of the Presbyteral Council lead the new fathers to their seats among the presbyters or priests. When seated the congregation without any printed or spoken provocation bursts into long, sustained applause reflecting the joy of this Church that it indeed has now two new priests who have come like the Lord to serve and not to be served. It happens every ordination.

The new fathers at their seats among the presbyters or priests while the congregation spontaneously applauds. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

There are other moments when the assembled signal their joy and approbation as when the bishop accepts the recommendation of those who formed the candidates and the people of God and announces that indeed he will ordain the men to the sacred priesthood.

After announcing that I will ordain the Deacon Victor Amorose and Deacon Timothy Corcoran to the sacred priesthood. Photo kindness of Theresa Mertens.

Again when the new priests receive the greeting of peace at the end of the ordination Rite from the bishop. One is scripted and the other two occasions are simply spontaneous.

Greeting Father Victor Amorose at the end of the ordination Rite. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.


Greeting Father Timothy Corcoran at the end of the ordination Rite. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

No one should think that homilies for these special occasions come easily. They do not. I began to think about what I wished to say during the trip to Rome. The newly ordained pick the readings they want read on their ordination day. I was working right up to midnight last night on the final draft. Whether successful or not, I leave to your judgment but you may read my homily by clicking here or watch a video of it by clicking here. Ordinations and the Chrism Mass have always been the preaching challenge for me during my episcopal ministry. The latter is much harder because the readings are always the same, never vary and one is preaching to about the same 80 deacons and 150 priests.

Fathers Corcoran and Amorose will be great priests. The former is himself a former federal judge in the Bankruptcy Court of the Middle District of Florida. He attended Blessed Pope John XXIII National Seminary (my alma mater) in Weston, Massachusetts for the last four years and has been assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Dunedin. Father Amorose started his post-secondary education by spending two years at the University of Central Florida and then finishing his college at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and studying theology as the Regional Seminary of St. Vincent de Paul in Boynton Beach. He has been assigned to St. John Vianney parish on St. Petersburg Beach.

Father Victor Amorose, myself, and Father Timothy Corcoran after their ordination to the priesthood. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Tonight they are gathering with family and friends and tomorrow they will celebrate their second Masses (their first as principal celebrant) at their home parishes, Sacred Heart, Tampa (Father Corcoran) and Light of Christ parish, Clearwater (Father Amorose). Our beloved Church has today given birth to two new priests with more on the way. God is good.



Thursday, December 1st, 2011
Attorneys in the congregation taking the Oath of Attorney during the Red Mass.

Taking the Oath of Attorney during the Red Mass. Photo courtesy of Maria Mertens.

Yesterday at beautiful Sacred Heart Church in Tampa we celebrated the annual Red Mass invoking the blessings  of the Holy Spirit on all judges, lawyers and clerks in our area. The Mass derives its name not from the color of vestments which the priests wear, but when the custom originated in Britain many centuries ago, the judges all wore red robes, hence “the Red Mass.” Yesterday was also the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle and since all the apostles suffered a martyr’s death, we always wear red when we remember them. The largest assembly of lawyers and judges in my time gathered to pray for the gift of divine guidance through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We have great Catholic lawyers and judges and it has always been a pleasure to be with them. Each year on the Sunday prior to the first Monday in October opening of a new session of the Supreme Court, many of the nine justices travel to Washington’s St. Matthew Cathedral for what may be the largest and most important Red Mass held in the nation.

In my homily I chose to bring up a possibility arising from Health and Human Services regulations which bother me deeply precisely because I and many others find them   violative of the religious liberty assured us by the first amendment to our Constitution and also of our personal moral consciences. These regulations will apply to the implementation of the soon to be fully implemented federal health care law.

The Diocese of Saint Petersburg has approximately 2300 employees who participate in a generous health care plan as part of their employment. While it covers almost everything, it excludes contraceptives, abortifacients, sexual enhancements like “Viagra”, etc. The first draft of the regulations for implementation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services mandated these and more services which I and others think violate the freedom of religion of our Church as regards procedures which we believe to be not in keeping with God’s law.  Further, if a person is required by law to provide, perhaps in a hospital emergency room situation procedures violative of their individual conscience( in the past they have  been exempt because of conscience concerns), they would be forced by this law to do so. Reacting to the first wave of complaints from the Catholic Church the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services modified the regulations slightly to exempt only Catholics working for a Catholic employer (other religions with serious moral concerns would also be included). Alas, I would still be required by law to provide the services to non-Catholic employees. What kind of sense does that make?

But there is an even larger problem for the Diocese of St. Petersburg. It is self-insured and our plan is only administered by a health care agency. Therefore the diocese by this law is an insurance company and all insurance companies must provide these services with currently no exemptions allowed. There are no exemptions to even include the situation outlined above. If the argument focused on abortion, a matter of public morality since the life of another person is involved, I suspect many more people would carry the fear which I have about this exercise of regulatory authority but because it seems to focus on contraception, a matter of private morality, lots of people do not understand what is at stake here. My genuine concern is that it is simply the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent. In my homily I outlined perhaps the only option left for the diocese as an employer if these regulations stand and believe me, colleagues in ministry and service and I will experience a marked loss of health care insurance coverage. A Church cannot be forced to violate its teaching, do something which is possibly immoral, and stand idly by and watch our Catholic doctors, nurses and aids forced to perform procedures which are both against their conscience and previously protected.  That’s what involved in this and there is considerable opposition to the position of the Church coming from Planned Parenthood and other organizations which see this moment as an opportunity to close the conscience clause exemption which they have long despised. If you don’t believe me, read the blogs of those other groups. No one in yesterday’s congregation has the power to fix whats wrong with the Affordable Health Care and Patient Protection Act of 2010. Only the President of the United States and his Secretary for Health and Human Services can do that but a gathering for Mass such as yesterday’s does provide me a forum for vetting a serious question of the intersection of law and morality and learning from those far more skilled at interpreting and applying the law than myself. From the reactions which I immediately received and throughout the day yesterday by e-mail and personal contacts, posing the matter of religious freedom was appreciated and as you can see below, I asked nothing of those present but to listen, reflect and pray.

Here follows my homily to those attending the Red Mass. I believe you will find it simply a pastor raising a moral v. potentially legal dilemma before people far wiser than I about the law, individual rights, and the danger to something many deeply cherish and love love about our country to date.

Distinguished Judges, members of the bar, clerks and friends of the courts

            It is an honor for me to join you once again in our annual invocation of the Holy Spirit for each of you in your respective and awesome responsibilities as dispensers and arbiters of justice in this time and place. Realizing fully my own need for the gift of wisdom from on high, I am certain that it is this gift of God and this gift alone which unites us this afternoon in this place and for this celebration.

           “Come follow me” is the invitation, which our Lord extends to Andrew, the apostle whose life and death the universal Church celebrates today, and to his brother, Simon. Such an invitation is also a generic call to all of us to follow Christ in the path of discipleship and service to humankind. No one living near Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee that day would have thought a thing about it because both men were simply uneducated fishermen. They were not antiquities forerunners of Rhodes scholars or McArthur fellowship award winners, they were what they were, fishermen.  But in addition to three years spent in the close company of the master teacher, Jesus, they would with nine others gather in one room and await the infusion of wisdom, courage, understanding, knowledge, piety, counsel, fortitude and fear of the Lord, all gifts of the same Holy Spirit to whom and for whom we pray today. The Lord heard their prayers, gave them the gifts necessary to shape, form, and lead His people then and  until His Son returns again in glory.

            Today in many ways attempting to follow the Lord requires that each of us know our limitations and return from time to time to seek divine assistance. I am sure that you can say the same as I do each morning when at prayer: “Lord, I do not know what is in store for me today but I am sure that today will be unlike any other, give me grace and strength, wisdom and patience.” The words of St. Paul in the first reading are assuring to those of us who realize that we were not born with all of life’s answers: “no one who believes in him will be put to shame. . . .For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. “

            Life on planet earth, the North American continent, and the United States has over time become exceeding complex and challenging and matters which the framers of our Constitution could never have envisioned now propel daily discourse. It is incumbent upon religious leaders like myself to present a consistent moral vision faithful to the law of Christ and the teachings of the Church and upon members of the judiciary and bar to navigate the tricky waters of law and precedent. But both of us are bound by vow or oath to be faithful to something, which must stand the test of time, be it creed or constitution. Occasionally our paths cross and less frequently but still occasionally they collide. I have such a fear at this moment in time.

            You probably have heard that the Catholic bishops of the United States have focused a significant amount of attention in the last few months on the matter of religious liberty and the rights of individual conscience. The matter is headed, of course, to the courts bit it is not that direction which I wish to call to your respectful attention today. Rather I think you should know that the Catholic Church through its bishops are in conversation with the Administration on certain published regulations of the recently enacted Health Care Plan which we find both unacceptable and worse still which we see as frontal attacks on our liberty of freedom of conscience. As employers we would be forced to provide in health care plans services and procedures which clearly are contrary to our beliefs and teachings and individual Catholics would be required to participate in procedures which in the past have enjoyed conscience protection in the law. So far the Administration has not publicly blinked on any of these matters of deep concern to us. If they fail to shift in their present positions, then 2300 employees of the Diocese of St. Petersburg will lose their health care coverage which they have come to treasure and rely upon – I would simply give them what we would have paid for their healthcare and tell them they have to look for coverage elsewhere. For the first time in my adult life, I foresee the possibility of some form of civil disobedience and I am extremely uncomfortable at even the hint of such a thing.

            We just celebrated the national feast day of Thanksgiving. The Puritans and Pilgrims of Massachusetts and the Catholics of Rhode Island and Maryland came to these shores precisely to found and build a nation which would respect and honor religious belief. The First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion reflects those foundational principles. Our founding mothers and fathers fled and escaped precisely what my Church and other denominations are coming to see now as assaults on their freedom of religious exercise and conscience protection. As difficult as it is for me to understand the reluctance of Christian Scientists to seek medical assistance, it is at the heart of their creed, their faith, their belief and I would fight to protect their rights in conscience. I hope others will see what we find at stake in this moment in history. One federal judge in California has said that the guarantee of “religious freedom” and lack of interference from the government pertains only to what we do on Sunday in our Churches and Friday nights in our Synagogues. All else is subject to government regulation. Dear sisters and brothers, we need the Holy Spirit badly.

            You heard the Gospel of Matthew a short while ago and its retelling of the call of the apostles. There is a different account to be found in the Fourth Gospel of John. There Andrew sees Jesus and asks, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus responds, “come and see.” After spending a few hours with Jesus, in John’s Gospel Andrew then quickly seeks out his brother Simon and says, “we have found the Lord.” Today we pray that the work of the Lord can be found in our system of laws and their administration, in the women and men of the bar, rooted in justice and desirous of proclaiming liberty to all. Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

Pray for your country and its leaders. It is not too late to fix what needs to be fixed.



Sunday, September 25th, 2011

I visited Sacred Heart parish in Tampa this week on two different occasions. On Monday the friars invited me to dinner and in return for my meal I agreed to spend ninety minutes with their RCIA class of about fifteen adults. The dinner, prepared by Father Sean, was delicious and the interaction with the RCIA class was a delightful experience. I focused my thoughts mainly on how the Catholic Church is structurally different from other Christian churches but also spoke about the intersection of sacramental life with structure. The questions were relatively easy which followed and I think the group was happy to spend some time with me. In fifteen years, the new pastor of Sacred Heart, Father George Corrigan, OFM has been the first to invite me to spend some time with those preparing for entering the Church at the Easter Vigil. As always, there were some sponsors who themselves relatively recently had completed the RCIA and were either baptized and confirmed or received and confirmed.

On Sunday I returned to Sacred Heart to formally and canonically (read that legally within Church law) install Father George as the second Franciscan pastor of this venerable parish in the heart of Tampa’s downtown. The parish and I warmly welcomed back the first Franciscan pastor, Father Andrew Reitz, OFM, who flew down from New York to be present for his successor’s installation. When I first came to the diocese fifteen years ago, I began by installing every new pastor in his parish but as time and the ardors of age have begun to be felt in this body of mine I now generally only install a priest in his first assignment as pastor and allow subsequent installations to be handled by the “Dean” of the area in which the parish is located. There is not much to the ceremony of installation itself which follows the homily. There is something of a greeting between the new pastor and his assistant pastors, if there are any, deacons, if there are any. and his parish staff. Then the members of the Parish Council and the Finance Council, if they are present, welcome the new shepherd. The bishop then asks the priest being installed to lead his new community in the Nicene Creed (“we believe in one God….”) after which he recites the oath of fidelity to Church teaching with his right hand on the Book of Gospels. That’s about it, except there is also a formal signing of papers with witnesses of the administration of the Oath of Fidelity and the Creed and then a document by which I formally appoint, assign and give all the proper powers as pastor to the priest.

Past and Present - Father Andrew Reitz, OFM, first Franciscan pastor of Sacred Heart and Father George Corrigan, OFM, new pastor. Photo kindness of Shaun Allen.

What has been wonderful about these moments and it was particularly true yesterday is that the ceremony provides several opportunities for the parish community to show its affection, appreciation and approbation of the man being installed. Long, sustained and loud applause was the order of the morning in historic Sacred Heart yesterday, for Father Andrew returning for the first time since leaving and for Father George. Both men should have felt very good about the ringing affirmation both received. The Franciscans took over the responsibility for pastoring Sacred Heart six years ago following decades of priestly presence from the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits withdrew reluctantly but at a time when the New Orleans province had a dearth of men in its ranks who could or wished to serve as parish pastors. By way of sidebar, I can affirm that the vocation situation in the New Orleans Jesuit province is very healthy at the moment and I know from the provincial who is from this area, that they miss being present at Sacred Heart. Older members of the parish also continue to miss the Jesuits but everyone is grateful for the presence of the Franciscan fathers and brothers. It was Father Andrew who was first dispatched to come to Tampa and explore the appropriateness of possibly coming to Sacred Heart, little knowing that his Provincial would tap him to be the first pastor.

Our oldest and some would say most beautiful Church in the Diocese, Sacred Heart, Tampa (photo through the kindness of Shaun Allen.

Sacred Heart also takes care of the Catholic Pastoral Ministry at Tampa General Hospital and campus ministry at the University of Tampa so the friars have a full plate in many ways. We have three distinct orders of Franciscans in our diocese and in four of our parishes. The Third Order Regular Franciscans are responsible for St. Mary, Our Lady of Grace Parish in St. Petersburg along with Bayfront Hospital and All Childrens Hospital and St. Patrick’s parish in south Tampa. The Capuchin Franciscan Fathers shepherd Most Holy Redeemer parish in Tampa with responsibility for Moffitt Cancer Center. As these three communities of men and the several communities of Franciscan women prepare to celebrate the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4, 2011, it is time for this bishop to thank them all for their wonderful presence and ministry in our midst.



Sunday, March 13th, 2011

The Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent is always about the trip into the desert by Jesus immediately after his Baptism by John in the Jordan and Satan’s temptations which befell him there. I am certain that the Church wishes us to hear these readings year after year in order that we might enter into some kind of desert experience ourselves throughout these forty days. Deserts that I have known are barren, forbidding and foreboding places where one cannot escape the heat of the day or the chill of the night. There is little to admire and much to fear in crossing a desert. It is boring and easily can give way to hallucinations and anxiety. I doubt if even Jesus was totally comfortable in his desert experience but he could not have found a place more free of distractions to pray at the beginning of his ministry.

For many of us, we need not physically go to a desert to have a “desert experience” and we certainly don’t have to physically relocate to experience temptations to evil, to profound doubt, to deep distrust. The evil one who tempted Jesus still tempts us when we aspire to greater wealth and jealousy of those who have it. The evil one still tempts us when he fills us with unholy ambition that might suggest we walk all over someone else to get something that we want. The evil one still tempts us when he invites us to positions of power and prestige whose methodology of attainment is not that of God.

There are even temptations alive which can right now affect our lives of faith and in the Church. Let me enumerate just a few: (a) the Church is corrupt and I do not need it any more to gain my salvation; (b) I don’t need a human much less a priest to whom I will confess my sins and therefore I choose to go directly to God; (c) the Eucharist is  just a memorial, nothing changes so I sure don’t need to go every Sunday; (d) who needs God? I sure don’t. These temptations are not products of my own too fertile imagination but rather are fairly common in our Church today. At the end of it all, the spirit of evil uses the same temptation to narcissicism as did the evil one with Jesus – it’s all about me! Jesus saw through it all and so must we. It is all about God and God’s relationship with me and me with him. There are as many temptations in the spiritual life in our personal deserts as there are stories in a naked city.

Deacon Jerry Crall calls the 454 Catechumens to be baptized, confirmed and receive First Eucharist at the Easter Vigil this year in the Rite of Election Ceremony at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle today. Photo courtesy of John Christian

People who travel through deserts, however, look for and rejoice when they come upon an oasis. Just when you think it can not get any worse, there is that cool shade, that cool water, that relief from the heat and desert temptation. I find it amazing that when the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults was instituted following the Second Vatican Council, that the Church found that as Church we just might need an oasis as we begin our Lenten experience. With all the renewed negative publicity about the Church and doubts about its leadership, some of which right now is merited it seems to me, and when one might tend to become dispirited, the Spirit gives us The Rite of Election. Today at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, it was my privilege to welcome  1,110 catechumens and candidates who will be received into the Church at the Easter Vigil this year. This is the highest number for this occasion in my fifteen years as bishop and quite frankly, I needed this oasis today more perhaps that those smiling and happy persons who shook my hand in the two separate ceremonies. I have several times mentioned before at this ceremony that it is second only to the ordination of priests in the happiness it brings to a bishop and his priests and deacons.

The Catechumens from Sacred Heart, Tampa, led by Father George Corrigan, OFM approach the bishop. Photo courtesy of John Christian

I know that there are many others preparing for the Easter sacraments who were unable to be at either of the two services held today and their number will make the number entering the Church even more impressive. Sixty-nine of our seventy-seven parishes and missions were present and the Cathedral was full with about 1,200 people at the 2:00pm and 4:30pm celebrations. Some approach me with tears in their eyes and others seem so grateful for the opportunity to be welcomed by the person who will be their bishop this Spring. A good number of children were present at both ceremonies and I counted about twenty families who would be coming into the Church together – Mom and Dad and the kids. Some also came forward who I would expect will get married this Spring and Summer and wish to become Catholic prior to that special moment. As I said earlier there are many stories in the “Naked City” as the old television show used to suggest.

So, if someone was having a desert experience today and could have been with me to share the joy of this annual moment, you would have been most grateful to God for the grace which is operative and obvious in this local Church.

Candidates (already have been baptized) for full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil come forward for a "close encounter of the first kind" with me. Photo courtesy of John Christian.


Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Florida generally is not too big on antiquity. There is, of course, the elusive fountain of youth allegedly found by Ponce de Leon and a few other major historical places but for the Church, antiquity is even more rare and more so on Florida’s West Coast. Thus it was stunning to me today to help Sacred Heart parish in downtown Tampa celebrate its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary. We just don’t have in this diocese or south of us too many Churches or structures which date to the turn of the last century must less the sixth decade of the nineteenth century (the Civil War had not yet begun). Sacred Heart, Tampa, however is a beautiful exception – majestic, inspiring, beautiful in so many ways. True the parish begun in 1860 for about forty Catholic families, the only Catholic families living in Hillsborough county at the time, began at a slightly different site (Twiggs and Ashley) and with a different initial title, “St. Louis parish” but soon land was donated at the present site, the name was changed with the coming of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) to Sacred Heart and by any name it remains the historical mother parish of the diocese. I will attach here some parts of my homily yesterday which relate to its history, present and future [please keep in mind that liturgically we were celebrating the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus]:

At the heart of its history, Sacred Heart has been baptizing for a century and a half. God alone probably knows the number of children and adults who have been baptized in this parish. The horrible Civil War in the colonies was not yet being fought when Bishop Verot sent Father C.S. Malley as first pastor of Saint Louis parish, the original name for Sacred Heart. There were only forty-one Catholic families in Tampa at that time.

Through the last century and a half with its wars, economic depression and countless recessions, the plague which practically obliterated Tampa and innumerable challenges those baptized here formed a strong community of faith, witnessing to the city and county that being Catholic meant imitating Christ, caring for one another, educating children. As you well know, most of the history of this parish is associated with the Society of Jesus. Only this week came the sad news of the death of a much loved and revered pastor, Father Michael Kennelly for whom we will celebrate a Memorial Mass at Tampa Jesuit High School which he founded this coming Thursday night.

Figuratively baptized in fire on many occasions, this great parish has been the spiritual home to the baptized now for a century and a half. The Franciscan Friars who now grace us with their ministry and presence witness to this area that being baptized does not mean being isolated from the environment in which the parish prays and worships, but makes Christ present in the core city of Tampa to those who live in the greatest dungeons of darkness and cold. Their life is one of humble witness and service.

Presently the Franciscans serve the parish, its school Sacred Heart Academy, Tampa General Hospital, the University of Tampa Campus Ministry program, and the convent of the Allegany Franciscan Sisters along the Hillsborough River. Active in serving the homeless, Sacred Heart has a significant outreach program into the downtown community and the daily Mass at 12:10 p.m. serves the business people of the center city as well as those working in the state and federal courts. Many of the priests and sisters serving at Sacred Heart during the 0utbreak of the Yellow Fever epidemic of the end of the 19th century died in service to the Tampa community but enough lived to courageously continue the ministry in this significant parish. The parish has  a great past, a powerful present, and a glorious future.

Here, then, are some wonderful pictures of beautiful Sacred Heart Church as it exists today:

The beautiful main altar (Photo by Michael Pruchnik)

The Rose Window on the left side of the Church (Photo by Michael Pruchnik)

Photo by Michael Pruchnik

Photo by Michael Pruchnik