The History of St. Louis Parish - 1970’s
The 1970’s brought three new pastors to St. Louis, Fr. Matthew Morgan in October 1971, Fr. John Nevins (later to be Bishop Nevins) in September 1972 and Fr. David Russell in September 1974. Each has left a unique mark on the parish.
Fr. Morgan, as reported in the Community News, was an “excellent administrator” who believed the Religious Education Program was “futuristic because it tried to reach all the people of the parish with a large number of volunteers who teach and work on the projects”. Fr. Wilcosky, who was once his altar boy, said Fr. Morgan had “a very Irish sense of humor and an endless supply of funny stories.” During this period, the Liturgical Committee suggested that parish members compose the Prayer of the Faithful and that in order to “sharpen our listening powers, we give the missal back to the priest”, thus doing away with the missalette.
In March of 1971 the Annual Interfaith Musicale, sponsored by Temple Beth Am, involved the Choir and the Women’s Club. The seeds of interfaith relationships and ecumenism eventually evolved into an “Interfaith Day” sponsored by the Synagogue Women of Dade County, Church Women United of Greater Miami and the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women.
Fr. Morgan left St. Louis in the summer of 1972, and on September 14, 1972, the parish welcomed Fr. John Nevins. Described in the Community News as a “man with a real sense of mission”, Fr. Nevins was interested in advancing ecumenism and “expanding our thinking beyond parish boundaries and including the whole surrounding area and the needs of people who live there.” As well as being pastor at St. Louis, Fr. Nevins was director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese. He worked to develop a Committee on Justice and Peace to have a real commitment to St. Ann’s Mission, migrant families and other social concerns.
The early seventies also brought two new Associate Pastors, Fr. James Murphy in 1972 and our own Fr. Michael Kish in 1973. Fr. Murphy believed that “liturgy was the only vehicle to build a parish community and to help people identify with the parish.” The two philosophies of outreach and concern for liturgy helped to lay the foundation for change during the next two years.
Fr. Mike, having served as chaplain of Campus Ministry at Miami-Dade Community College South Campus since 1969, brought a unique understanding of young people to St. Louis. He soon became famous for the number of marriages he performed and the number of couples he mentored. Many of his homilies returned to the theme of marriage and relationships. He was also chaplain for both the Golden Agers and the Legion of Mary. In 1981 , he was appointed Catholic Chaplain for the City of Miami Police Department which probably explains why he once owned and rode a motorcycle. He is also known for owning several generations of dogs all called Michaelito.September 1974 marked the end of Fr. Nevins time as pastor. He would subsequently become the first Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, Florida. On September 29, 1974, the parish observed a belated celebration of their 10th anniversary, a farewell to Fr. Nevins and an introduction of Fr. David Russell as new pastor.
Fr. Russell, the flamboyant pastor of St. Maurice’s Parish in Dania Beach (known as the “stable” because the church was a renovated stable) took St. Louis by storm. Fr. Fetscher believed his priorities were “the liturgical life, preaching excellence, involvement of the broadest number of people in parish life, a strong stewardship program emphasizing all areas of Christian response and an outreach on the evangelical and social level.”
Appointing Lisa Zorovich as the new Music Director and subsequently hiring Paul Lambert and then Roger Grenier, Fr. Russell demonstrated his concern for good music. Paul and Roger’s combined talents evolved into a ministry which included live concerts, three record albums in six years and various parish missions and retreats. In time, Paul would be ordained a Deacon.
In September 1975, Fr. Russell brought Myrna Gallagher from St. Maurice to become Director of Religious Education. Myrna envisioned “continuing Christian development as an opportunity to awaken an awareness in children of the presence of God and a vehicle for expressing their love for Him, their neighbor and themselves.” When asked, Fr. Russell said, “Myrna has always been the one who makes me look good.” Another ministry which grew under Fr. Russell was “New Life”. Formerly the CYO, this ministry for high school youth emphasized a personal walk with the Lord through retreats, fellowship and service.
Also during this time, the “Come Follow Me” prayer group, the Life in the Spirit Seminars, and the first Women’s Emmaus took place. Emmaus, fashioned after the gospel reading of “A Walk to Emmaus,” was written by Myrna and Fr. Russell. A Men’s Emmaus would follow in 1986 . Both programs have spread far beyond St. Louis.
Liturgical reforms of Vatican II continued to reach parishes with the advent of Communion in the hand, and the first Eucharistic Ministers. In April 1979, Wilbur Rollins became the first parishioner of St. Louis to be ordained a Permanent Deacon. In subsequent years fourteen others would follow his lead.
Associate Pastors during this time were Frs. Manuel Rodriguez, a concert pianist, and Edwin Trimbur, a trumpet player from March to August 1975; Sean Quilter, October to December 1975, and James Fetscher, 1976 to 1980 , who became pastor in 1982.Also during Fr. Russell’s tenure, the parish saw the mortgage-burning for the temporary Church, the Rectory, Family Center, Office and classroom facilities. Stewardship, the use of time, talent and treasure to build up the parish, began in 1977 as a “way of life” for parish members. After five years of planning the permanent Worship Space was built. It was dedicated on September 27, 1980.
Tal como lo hicieran los “pilgrims” en el siglo XVII, que abandonaron sus tierras en busca de libertad, la situación socio-política por la que atravesaba Latinoamérica en los años 70's, forzó a muchos latinos a abandonar sus países y emigrar a EEUU en busca de libertad, justicia y un mejor porvenir para sus familias.
Llegados de países de profundas raíces católicas, estos inmigrantes necesitaban poder continuar con sus tradiciones cristianas y el "Ir a misa" no era suficiente. Su fe requería “participar” de la Eucaristía, escuchar y entender La Palabra y la barrera idiomática era sin duda un gran impedimento.
Por eso, el Padre Russell, hizo posible que en 1974, el padre José Ignacio Hualde comenzase a celebrar semanalmente la Eucaristía en español. A él le siguieron otros sacerdotes como los padres Manuel Rodriguez, Serafín Gómez, e Ignacio Romeau que continuaron con la celebración eucarística en español entre 1975 y 1979.
La Hermana Dominica Isabel Mazarredo, Enrique Mión, Vivian Correa, Cristina Correa, Elsa Bericochea, y Elena Alvarez, entre otros, se contaban entre los primeros feligreses. Entre 1980 y 1982, la Santa Misa fue celebrada por diferentes sacerdotes jesuitas, Dorta-Duque SJ, Palais SJ y Garcia SJ, hasta que en 1981 llega a St. Louis el padre Otto Martínez, SJ. Con él, la comunidad comenzó a crecer y a involucrarse más y más.
Bajo la dirección de José y Araceli Gómez, Vivian y Cristina Correa, Elsa Bericochea, Henry y Nilda Hueck, Elena Alvarez, José Jiménez, entre otros, nacieron o se desarrollaron numerosos ministerios como las clases de preparación para el Bautismo, Preparación para el Matrimonio, Grupo de Oración, Ministerio de Humanidades, que incluía el apoyo a los pacientes con SIDA, etc. Es de destacar que en este período contamos con dos diáconos latinos, Miguel Parladé, quien era miembro de esta comunidad, y de Luis González.