Friday, November 28, 2008

The Jesuit Mission In Sarasota, Florida

The Sarasota mission post of the Tampa Jesuits became a parish when Father Charles L. Elslander, as a young man, said Mass in the little frame church facing east on Adelia Street on October 1, 1927, and the congregation numbered 132. Sarasota had been a mission post since 1889 when Bishop John Moore, D.D., of St. Augustine, brought the Jesuits to Tampa to assume responsibility for St. Louis Parish (now Sacred Heart) and its large mission area in South Florida. A number of circuit riding Jesuits visited the still remote and pioneer region bringing the presence of the Church (infrequently but always welcome) to the Catholic community, celebrating Mass, administering sacraments, preaching, visiting the sick and bringing Christ closer to the lives of the often scattered Catholic families. Rev. Alfred Latiolais, S.J., in 1911, accepted adjoining lots, donated by the families of Owen Bums, T.C. Callan and George McAlpine. A small - about a dozen families - but a staunch band in Sarasota, was determined to build its church! The lots fronted on Adelia at the corner of the thoroughfare now known as Fruitville Road. Construction began the next year with Father Andrew B. Fox, S.J., in charge. The first public notice of a Mass being offered in the Adelia Street structure appeared in February 1913. It read: "Catholic Church Adelia Street Services will be the first Tuesday after the Second Sunday of each month with Father Latiolais, S.J. saying Mass at 7:00 a.m." Until the nineteen-twenties the Catholics in the area numbered 13 or 14 families. Coming to the Mission Church was an especially lengthy and arduous trip for many families because of difficulties in travel. The exterior was not completed for two years because of the lack of funds and it was not until 1919 that the interior could receive attention. Masses were however, celebrated during construction. The little church came to be known as St. Martha's in honor of the patron saint of Owen Burns' mother, Martha, who had suggested to her son that he donate the first lot. The number of Masses was increased in November 1921 when two Masses were scheduled for the second and fourth Sundays. Many new families moved into this area after World War I. The first attempt was made to have St. Martha's Mission raised to the status of a parish as the nineteen-twenties progressed. The local Catholic Woman's Club recently established, sent a committee to St. Augustine to petition the Most Rev. Patrick Barry, Bishop of the diocese, to assign a resident priest to St. Martha's. Priests however, were still quite scarce and Bishop Barry was unable to grant this request. Despite this setback, this small group of devoted women made every effort to instill a parish life into St. Martha's Mission. They organized social and fund-raising affairs to maintain the original church in good repair. They purchased pews and arranged to have a choir loft constructed. The group brought to Saint Martha's a spirit of giving and sacrifice which made it a truly Christian community long before St. Martha's Catholic Church was formally established.
Photo is of the Jesuit Mission Director of Central Florida, Fr. Alfred Latiolais, S.J.,
Link (here)

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