Lakewood Ranch Parish reflects on 25 years

There were just 96 parishioners at the first Mass of Our Lady of the Angels Mission in Lakewood Ranch on Feb. 7, 1999. The first Catholic Church east of Interstate 75 in Manatee County celebrated 25 years of serving the faithful with a Mass on Feb. 24, 2024, the Second Sunday of Lent, with more than 1,000 in attendance.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant for the Mass, and commended the faithful for their commitment to growing the Parish community through the years, impressed by how much has been accomplished in a relatively short period of time.

“The 25 years is relatively few when compared to the 2,000 years history of the Church founded by Jesus,” Bishop Dewane said. “But the role the faithful have at Our Lady of the Angels is as important as it was years ago; that is to build up the Body of Christ. That is who you are; called to spread the Good News about Our Lady of the Angels to those who should or could be here. Just as Jesus called His disciples to be the messengers to carry the Word of God out into the world. Every one of us, as followers of Jesus Christ, have that command.”

Father Sebastian Szczawínski, S.A.C., Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels, remarked that he was very grateful for the support and prayers of the faithful in working to positively impact the lives of people across Lakewood Ranch and beyond.

“Church growth doesn’t happen by accident,” Father Szczawínski said. “It takes hard work, prayer and commitment. It also takes the holy blessing of the Lord. That is why we are here today, to acknowledge that He has richly blessed us over the last many years.”

In 1999, Our Lady of the Angels was established as a Mission of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish in Sarasota, sharing worship space with Our Living Lord Lutheran Church. Franciscan priests initially serving the pastoral needs of the community as the Parish was formally erected in 2002. A multi-purpose building was opened in 2003 and Masses were celebrated there until the current Parish Church was dedicated in 2019 by Bishop Dewane.

Since those humble beginnings, the growth in Lakewood Ranch has been reflected in the massive growth of the Parish community. Our Lady of the Angels currently serves more than 3,200 registered families with up to seven weekend Masses offered during the peak season.

As the Parish continues to grow, new construction is ongoing for a 12,580-foot Parish Activity Center and duplex rectory on the west side of the property. The work began in November 2023 and is expected to take 12-16 months to complete.

Following the Mass of celebration, a reception was held in the Parish Hall.