From left, Fr. Dick Cahill, Fr. Mike O'Brien, Deacon Winston McDonald, Bishop Lynch, Fr. Mike Lydon, Fr. Bernie Mac Adam, and Fr. Abel at the Sept. 8 25th anniversary mass.
SEMINOLE – St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church, 10851 Ridge Road, concluded its yearlong celebration of its 25th anniversary on Sept. 8 with a mass led by Bishop Robert Lynch.
In addition to the bishop, the church’s original pastor, Fr. Michael O’Brien, as well as two deacons and a number of other local priests were on hand to celebrate the milestone.
The church celebrated its first mass the first weekend of September in 1987. It was held at Bernard Hall at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church at the time, because St. Justin’s had no official home yet, said Marie Chisari, director of SERVE/ministry.
“We were without a home, a place to call our own,” she said. “They were fantastic to us at St. Dunston’s.”
St. Justin’s broke ground for the church and parish center on Jan. 15, 1989 and moved in the spring of 1990. They worshipped in the new church for the first time on Easter Sunday and in June of that year Lydon was installed as the first pastor.
But this church was only supposed to be a temporary home for the parish, Chisari said.
“We intended to build a big church,” she said, “but I guess with the economy, it never happened.”
This can be seen in the church’s layout. For instance, there are no pews or kneelers, which often confuses visitors and new members, Chisari said. Since the location was temporary, all church functions – from meetings to flea markets to dinners and dances – were held in the same space as where they worshipped so all of the seating needed to be portable, making it impossible for the church to install pews and kneelers.
And around the structure, as the church membership and its needs grew, trailers and small buildings were installed for a variety of uses: the youth group, the thrift shop, meeting space, storage.
In 1998, Lydon was re-appointed to another church and Fr. Michael O’Brien was installed as the second pastor of the church.
O’Brien brought with him “a Jesus-centered, purpose-driven” approach to Catholicism, Chisari said. The church focuses on five purposes: Invite, Connect, Pray, Study and Serve.
A director was then put in charge of each purpose said Cris Weise, a member of the 25th anniversary committee.
“Discipleship is what distinguishes us from other Catholic churches,” she said.
Some new recent programs include the Kitchen on Wheels – or KOW as parishioners refer to it – which is used at various church and community functions, as well as to help those in need.
Another exciting project, Chisari said, is the parish’s involvement with the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas. Essentially, St. Justin has sought out a sister parish and has been paired up with a church in Honduras.
Chisari also said the church is looking forward to opening a small gift shop sometime before the holidays. They’ll sell not only religious gifts, but also arts and crafts from around the world.