The History of St. Louis Parish - 2000’s
The 2000’s, a new millennium, began with the traditional New Year’s Midnight Mass, only instead of counting down to midnight, we “counted down” the coming of a new century by repeating the name of Jesus, calling on Him to bless the year to come. Since 1998, with “Mission 2000” followed by “Renew 2000” we had been preparing our hearts for this moment. The new century would begin with “Vision 2000” and “Jubilee 2000”, programs to share the covenant, renew our financial commitments, and celebrate the birth of Jesus.
A new century marked a new beginning for the Parish Council. Now it would be a unified council with both English and Spanish speaking members serving and leading together.
On January 23, 2001 for Fr. Wally’s birthday, Fr. Jim noted “If my memory serves me, Fr. Wally was born in the second year of Calvin Coolidge’s first term.” In June of the following year, the parish celebrated Fr. Wally’s fortieth anniversary to the priesthood with a movie-themed party featuring Fr. Wally as ”Laurence of Arabia” among other images.
In August, 2001 the new St. Louis Covenant School building was dedicated. In 2003, Kevin Robson, created a new mural, “Jesus and the Children.” This 12 X 18 mural was enamel painting on porcelain tile and was displayed on the eastern wall of the school. The St. Louis Covenant School graduated its first class in May, 2005. Many of the graduates had attended since pre-school. Chris Mathisen was the founding principal and has continued in this role to the present.
Then Tuesday 9/11 happened and the parish came together for mass and spontaneous prayer. Fr. Jim did not ask “Why did God let this happen?” He told us it happened “ because God made us free, and humankind can choose evil. Evil is real and again we saw its face.”
In November, 2001, Jeff Reyes was ordained to the diaconate. He would continue to serve in the Homeless Ministry as well as minister to the people of St. Joachim’s Parish. In April, 2002, Fr. Otto Martinez left St. Louis for semi-retirement at the Jesuit provincial house in the Dominican Republic , and Fr. Pedro Cartaya, a Jesuit scholar, came to replace him. Fr. Jim introduced Fr. Cartaya as “one of those people whose name provokes a smile when you hear it and think about it.”July 2002, the parish hosted the National Convention of the Christian Family Movement, a staple in the parish since its beginnings. The convention theme was “The Lord is in our House;” the keynote speaker was Dr. David Thomas, well-known lay theologian who specialized in ”family as sacrament”.
The same month, Fr. John Peloso left to become pastor of San Pedro Parish in Tavernier in the Keys. His replacement, Fr. Jimmy Acevedo, would not arrive until June, 2003. Fr. Jimmy would stay until September 2005 when he, too, became a pastor. From March to August 2003, Fr. Rod Petrie, OFM came to help. He would come again in subsequent years.
By 2003, the parish was a member of PACT, (People Acting for Community Together) a local organization of churches and schools banding together to impact education, immigration and health care in the area. Verline Moore represented St. Louis. In May, 2003, Alba Diaz was recognized as “Volunteer of the Year” by the warden at Dade Correctional Institute in Florida City. Alba was the face of Prison Ministry working for decades and enlisting the aid of numerous volunteers to teach, and deacons to counsel and minister to the ladies and more recently the men in the prison.
On November 22, 2003, Emmaus women and men gathered at the Convocation Center at the University of Miami to celebrate their 25th anniversary.
Later that year, Fr. Wally became ill. After spending a year away from ministry, with nine hospital/nursing home stays, he passed away on August 14, 2004. In the words of Fr. Jim, in his last year Wally went from being an “obstreperous curmudgeon to graceful tranquility”. In his own words, quoting Rosaline Russell as Auntie Mame, Wally told us “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” A year later, on the anniversary of Fr. Wally’s “home going,” we had an “estate sale” of all his wonderful collectables and many returned home with a memento of our beloved Fr. Wally.
In September Fr. Andrew Pietraszko arrived and would serve at St. Louis for the next four years. In June 2005 we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Fr. Mike’s ordination to the priesthood. That same year Biju Vells returned to St. John Vianney Seminary to join Alex Rodriguez. Alex would be ordained in 2008 and Biju in 2012. In a rare move Fr. Biju was assigned to his home parish. In September 2005, Fr. Jimmy Acevedo left St. Louis to serve as pastor of Mother of Our Redeemer Parish in Hialeah.
In April 2005, the first “Louies”, an Oscar for discipleship in the parish, were awarded by Fr. Jim to Mimi Askey, Jorge DeRivero, Gene Fleming, Enrique Mion, Mary Smith and Bill Wolf. Later other “Louie” winners would include Deacon John Green, Jim Lamb, Edmundo Leschhorn, Angie Rosales, Al and Mary Lou Schwitalla, Fr. Jim on the occasion of his transfer to St. Sebastian Parish and Fr. Mike on his retirement.
Fr. George Healey arrived in June, 2006 and served the parish until December 2007. Mark Witkowski, who grew up in St. Louis, returned the same year to revive the Young Adult Ministry. Later he would take over Rock and New Life as well. Bill Brown, became the new assistant cantor and eventually cantor when Scott Kaldahl retired. Marie Theresa Lopez succeeded Peggy Santella as DRE after Peggy’s remarkable tenure for more than twenty-five years.
Parish ministries included our ongoing commitment to Stewardship, and new ministries like the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and Familia. In response to the campaign of genocide sweeping through the Sudan leaving 400,000 people dead and 2,000,000 displaced, parishioners donated to www.saveDarfur.org, as well as continuing a multi-year response to the suffering in Haiti and many local charities. On April 13, 2008 Fr. Jim celebrated 25 years as pastor. His letter of appointment was dated Sept. 29, 1982. In recognition of National Pastor Appreciation Day, the St. Louis first graders wrote, “ Thank you for this wonderful school and church. It was nice of you to make this school for us. You have an important job and you are a very special man. You’re the greatest priest we’ve ever met!” To this we say Amen!
In May 2008, Fr. David Zirilli arrived. Fr. David was teacher, friend, traffic monitor for the school. Within months he knew the name of every student. After two short years, however, he was reassigned as Vocations Director for the Archdiocese. The same month on May 25, 2008, we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Perpetual Adoration. Fr. Jim quoted the creed of Fr. John Fuellenbach, SVD: “I am loved unconditionally; I am forgiven completely; I am never alone.”
The History of St. Louis Parish 2010’S
A new decade brought us a new pastor. After 28 years, Fr. Jim Fetscher was re-assigned to St. Sebastian’s Parish in Fort Lauderdale. Fr. Paul Vuturo, who had been pastor of St. Bartholomew’s Parish in Miramar for 24 years, became the sixth pastor of St. Louis. In Fr. Paul we have an excellent administrator, a gifted homilist, a kind, ever-present leader. Fr. Paul is ever accessible, meeting and greeting every parishioner after each weekend mass. He even returns phone calls.
Cecelia Witkowski became our newest cantor and Fr. Paul’s “jack of all trades.” Carmen Leschhorn, Pilar Carson and Colleen Lam, as well as Deacon John Green continue to staff the office and manage the physical plant.
Fr. Armando Tolosa also arrived in 2010, replacing Fr. David his seminary roommate, Fr. Armando serves both the Spanish and the English communities. Fr. Biju Vells joined us after his ordination in 2012. On July 1, 2012, Fr. Mike Kish retired from active ministry after 39 years of service to the parish and became our vicar emeritus.
In 2011, two new deacons George Labelle and Jose Villena were ordained. With these, we have nine active deacons in the parish plus two candidates in training, Jim Dugard and Mark Westman.
In anticipation of the Golden Jubilee Anniversary of St. Louis Parish, a committee has been hard at work planning a year of activities. The Jubilee Year began November 2, 2012 with a Memorial Mass to remember all of the priests, and parishioners who have passed away but “on whose shoulders we stand.” Fr. Fetscher returned as homilist. Another mass is planned for August 25, the feast day of St. Louis. The actual date of the founding of the parish is August 30th. The same weekend, a History committee is planning a museum to “tell the story” over the five decades. The Jubilee Year concludes with a large celebration at the Bank United Center at the University of Miami on November 23, 2013.
When you write a history, you can only hope to touch the thousands of tiny pieces of glass that make up the mosaic of the story. Each of the pieces has other pieces of stories and memories. Each person treasures his or her own stories and each sees it from their own perspective. So how do you tell it all? You don’t. Still, the remarkable thing about this particular history is that every “jot and tittle” is written indelibly on the heart of God. There is no better place for safe-keeping. Being faithful to that history means recognizing that because what has happened, so much more can and will happen to make God real in a world that is bewitched with fantasy. We preach Christ crucified with St. Paul, which means we live lives of self-giving. May our gratitude for what we received make us joyful in doing what remains for us to be done.
Se estimulan las actividades bilingües incluyendo Misiones, Celebraciones Eucarísticas, Reuniones de Cabezas de Ministerios. Uno de los primeros ministerios en fusionarse fue el de Obras comunitarias con el de Humanities y la actividad de adoptar una familia en Navidad se hace en forma conjunta. Prueba de este progreso y consolidación continuaron desarrollándose en los distintos ministerios como los de Crecimiento Espiritual, Emaús, y el Fin de Semana del Convenio Matrimonial.
La organización de Clases de Biblia comenzó a cargo del Padre Otto Martinez, SJ y Gremaud Angee. Luego se incorporan, el Padre Guillermo Sarasa, SJ de Bogotá, Colombia, con 2 visitas anuales de una semana y del Presbítero Pablo Laguna de España, quien durante sus estadías de 3-4 meses en Miami, se hizo cargo de las celebraciones Eucarísticas y clases de Biblia.
En 2002 el padre Otto Martinez es trasladado a República Dominicana y el padre Jimmy Jimeno, español, de la Orden de los Escolapios, residente del SEPI, continuó al frente de la comunidad. En el 2003, el padre Jimmy Acevedo, recién ordenado sacerdote es asignado a St. Louis, la parroquia de la cual él era miembro, y siendo bilingüe, se hace cargo de la conducción de la comunidad hispana. Es el primer sacerdote en residencia a cargo de la comunidad hispana. El Padre Acevedo es trasladado como párroco a la iglesia Nuestra Señora del Redentor y es reemplazado en el 2008 por el padre David Zirili. Dos años después, este es reasignado a la Arquidiócesis a cargo de las vocaciones, y el recién ordenado Padre Armando Tolosa se hace cargo de nuestra comunidad en el 2010 por los siguientes 3 años. A partir de Julio 2013, el recién ordenado Padre Fredy Yara es asignado a St. Louis y se hace cargo de las necesidades pastorales de la comunidad hispana.