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
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
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.
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.
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
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cathedral-basilica of st. augustine at a glance
| Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine
38 Cathedral Place
St. Augustine, FL 32084
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
Parishioners: 1,969 registered
Pastor: Rev. Timothy Lozier
Parochial Vicar: Rev. Christopher Liguori
Priests in Residence: Msgr. Harold Jordan
and Rev. Frank Haryasz
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
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.