Celebrating 50 years on Longboat Key

St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish is commemorating its 50 years of service to the Catholic community on Longboat Key.

The first celebration took place on Dec. 8, 2023, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is the actual date of the establishment of the Parish on Dec. 8, 1973.

Mass was celebrated by Father Robert Dziedziak, St. Mary Pastor, and concelebrated by Father Phillip Schweda, Administrator of St. Bernard Parish in neighboring Holmes Beach, and who also previously served as Temporary Administrator and Parochial Vicar at St. Mary, Star of the Sea.

Following the Mass, a 50th Anniversary Luncheon was held in the Parish Hall. A 50th Anniversary Dinner is scheduled to take place on Feb. 23, 2024.

During the Luncheon, Father Dziedziak led everyone in prayer, first praising God for the blessings and gifts He bestows on the Parish community.

“We thank you Lord for all of the people who came here at the very beginning, in 1973, who built up this Parish Church as a wonderful community of believers. We thank you God for Father (Edward) Pick and Msgr. (Gerard) Finegan, and all other priests who have served here. We pray for all of those forefathers who were part of this wonderful Parish and who have gone before us, we hope and pray that they are enjoying their eternal life in the Father’s Kingdom.”

Father Dziedziak also called upon the Heavenly Father to inspire the faithful of St. Mary, Star of the Sea with the Holy Spirit to serve His people to the best of their abilities.

The prayer concluded with Father entrusting all to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was honored on that day, before everyone joined in praying the “Hail Mary.”

St. Mary, Star of the Sea had humble beginnings, with Masses first celebrated in a youth center and then a firehouse on the north end of the island between 1969 and 1973. The needs of the faithful were then administered by priests from St. Bernard Parish in Holmes Beach.

When it became a Parish, St. Mary, Star of the Sea was in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. Bishop Charles McLaughlin presided over the Parish dedication Mass on Dec. 8, 1973, with Father Pick named as the first Pastor. The current Parish church was dedicated in 1978 and the hall, now named after Father Pick, was dedicated in 1991.

Following Father Pick’s retirement in 2008, Msgr. Gerard Finegan was appointed second Pastor, serving until 2019. Father Dziedziak was appointed as third Pastor in 2020.