St. Augustine Catholic
Restoring Hope to Grieving Youth
At the Hour of Our Death
Profile: Father Tom Willis

in this issue... 
editor's notes
saint of the month
bishop's message
from the archives
in the know with Fr. Joe
theology 101
your marriage matters
parenting journey
spiritual fitness
parish profile
around the diocese
work life
last word
calendar of events

parish profile
Three Churches - One Parish
The Historic Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine
by Shannon Scrubby-Henderson

The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine is a parish without parallel in America. It is the oldest continuously active Catholic faith community in the continental United States founded on Sept. 8, 1565.
The sanctuary of the historical Cathedral-Basilica includes murals by Hugo Ohlms. To the right of the altar the murals depict important religious and philosophical thinkers and leaders of Europe. To the left the murals depict scenes that relate to early Florida history.

As you might expect of a parish located at the heart of the most historic Catholic city in the United States, Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine is unique among faith communities in the Diocese of Saint Augustine.

Its members are a cross-section of Catholic families with deep roots in the area - as well as newcomers from across the country. The parish celebrates Mass at two churches, the imposing Cathedral-Basilica at the center of town and St. Benedict the Moor in Lincolnville. Prince of Peace votive church at the Mission of Nombre de Dios is used weekdays for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. “We have three locations, but we think and act like one parish,” says Pastor Tim Lozier. “There’s a lot to do, and we do it together.”

Evangelizing in the nation’s oldest city
Its role as a Catholic landmark provides the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine with special opportunities to evangelize. Bob Moore, director of Music, seeks to spread the faith by reclaiming the Cathedral’s status as a center for the arts. “If people see this as a place where the arts are alive,” he says, “there’s a good chance they’ll decide it’s a good place to worship.” To that end, Bob has spearheaded an ambitious schedule of concerts open to the public, among them: Jazz Vespers; the “Big Prelude” concerts presented at 10:30 a.m. on the first and third Sundays of the month; and First Friday organ recitals. The St. Augustine community orchestra practices at the Cathedral-Basilica; next year, the community chorus will return for a series of concerts.

At the Bell Tower Gift Shop, in a space that includes what was once the Baptistry of the Cathedral, Marge Fischer directs a staff of four employees and 14 volunteers. “The gift shop workers and our Cathedral docents (trained volunteers from the parish who conduct afternoon tours) are the people visitors meet,” explains Father Tim. “Their role is significant.” The Cathedral-Basilica is a favorite stop on the popular St. Augustine city tours. Weekend crowds number more than 1,000 visitors a day, not including those who come for Mass.

“For a small shop, we do a big business,” notes Marge. The shop trades in religious gifts, including one of the largest collection of patron saint medals in the country and an extensive collection of Catholic books. Several booklets, brochures and a self-directed guide to the Cathedral-Basilica are available for visitors. “I see my job as interpreting the church for our visitors,’ she notes. “This is a chance to communicate the faith.”

Putting children first
Cathedral Parish School (CPS) principal Janet Morton, who came out of retirement as principal of Christ the King Catholic School in Jacksonville, says she was “surprised and delighted” to find that many parents stay involved in the school long after their children graduate. “It’s an extremely close-knit community, where people take ownership in the school. Children are really valued here,” she says.

CPS parent Mary Catherine Ward, who moved to the area last year, comments that she loves both the small-town atmosphere and the school’s urban setting on cobblestone paved St. George Street. “The children walk four blocks through town to Mass every week. They help serve meals at nearby St. Francis Soup Kitchen. We come as a family from the suburbs to the Cathedral on Sundays. It’s an experience most grade schools just can’t offer,” she says. CPS serves students from four other area parishes: St. Anastasia, San Sebastian, Corpus Christi and St. Ambrose and Our Lady of Good Counsel Mission.

Since 1988, the parish has also offered a comprehensive education and day care program for pre-school children at a separate campus on Sebastian Street. Led by Principal Jill Valley, Cathedral Early Education Center is a diocesan pioneer in this critical learning arena.

Committed to outreach
Concern for social justice is the driving force behind several active parish ministries. Ron Zamora, director of the Social Justice Committee, describes his group’s mission as an effort “to educate the person in the pew that social justice is one of Jesus’ directives.” The Respect Life Ministry, led by May Oliver, also seeks to raise awareness of important social issues. In addition, they are active at St. Gerard Campus, a residence for unwed mothers that offers crisis pregnancy services, a fully accredited high school program, and a licensed day care.

Mission Honduras
June 2006 marked the third annual parish mission trip to Honduras. Sue Brunson, group leader, “caught the bug” in 2004 when she and her husband accompanied former Pastor Terry Morgan and a group of volunteers on an exploratory journey.

“We helped build the foundation for the Muchilena church. When the villagers saw what we were up to, many of them joined in. The next year, when we went back, we attended Mass there. It’s an experience you don’t forget,” she says emphatically. Father Tim, an enthusiastic supporter of the Mission Honduras efforts, has signed up to accompany the group on next summer’s trip. For the past two winters, the parish has also helped sponsor a medical mission trip to Honduras.

Setting priorities
A willingness to help is the first step toward changing society; the ability to help is just as important. Father Tim describes Crown Financial Ministries, a ten-week, Bible-based program now offered at Cathedral-Basilica Parish, as a tool that teaches participants to enjoy their money more by managing it better. “People who are good stewards of their money tend to be generous with it. They learn that giving brings joy,” he says. In a historic parish with a proud tradition of service to others, the program is a natural complement to the faith community’s many ambitious outreach efforts.

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cathedral-basilica of st. augustine at a glance
Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine
38 Cathedral Place
St. Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 824-2806

Churches: Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine, St. Benedict the Moor Mission in Lincolnville and Prince of Peace Votive Church on the grounds of the Mission of Nombre de Dios

Parishioners: 1,969 registered
Pastor: Rev. Timothy Lozier
Parochial Vicar: Rev. Christopher Liguori
Priests in Residence: Msgr. Harold Jordan
and Rev. Frank Haryasz

Cathedral Parish School (est. 1916)
Principal: Janet Morton
Students: 385 in grades K-8

Cathedral Early Education School (est. 1988)
Director: Jill Valley
Students: 100, ages 3-5

The oldest Catholic parish in America dates to Sept. 8, 1565, the year Father Francisco Lopez, a member of an expedition led by Pedro Menendez, celebrated the first Mass in the New World. The parish is 300 years older than the diocese, which was not officially declared until 1870. Parish baptisms, marriages and burials recorded in 15 volumes are the oldest written records of American origin preserved in the United States.

Elevated to a Minor Basilica in 1976, the present-day the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine has a fascinating story of its own. It retains elements of the 1797 Moorish-style St. Augustine Parish church that became the cathedral for the newly declared diocese in 1870. This structure was the most splendid church in Florida in its day. But in 1887, it was destroyed in a massive fire. Three coquina rock walls and the façade were all that remained.

James Renwick, architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and a winter resident of St. Augustine designed the restoration. Henry Flagler helped finance a majestic bell tower. The new cathedral, 12 feet longer than the original, incorporated the ruins of the original structure and its Moorish architectural style.

Thirteen stained-glass windows from Germany were installed in 1909. In conjunction with the 400th anniversary of the parish, the cathedral underwent extensive renovations in 1965. A new tabernacle, ceiling decorations, the Eucharistic Chapel, artist Hugo Ohlms’ colorful sanctuary murals of St. Augustine history, and exterior details were added at this time.