Longtime Diocesan priest retires

For the past four decades Father Mark Heuberger has served the faithful of Southwest Florida in several different capacities, celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, administering the sacraments and proclaiming the Word of God to the faithful. Most importantly he has strived to live out his call to holiness as a priest through prayer and being an example for others to follow.

After 43 years as a priest, Father Heuberger is retiring effective June 30, 2024, shortly after reaching his 70th birthday. In that time, Father served at 11 Parishes ranging from Fort Myers and Cape Coral to St. Petersburg, on the faculty at three Catholic high schools, two terms on the faculty of the regional seminary, and appointments on numerous seminary and Diocesan advisory boards.

A dual birthday and retirement celebration took place on June 23 at Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton, where he has served as Pastor for the past 14 years. The celebration began appropriately with Mass and was followed by a reception all with intention of thanking Father Mark for his many years of service to the people of God and to wish him well going forward.

Father Heuberger said that prior to the celebration he was trying to think of the number weddings, baptism and funerals he presided over for just the people who were coming to honor him and couldn’t do it. When reflecting on the full 42 years of his priesthood, the numbers become huge and only reflect a small part of his priestly service.

“I am so grateful to have been able to be a small part of so many lives,” Father Heuberger said. “I am so blessed. Thank you.”

During the reception, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, many Diocesan priests and religious, as well as friends from nearly each of his many assignments, recognized Father Mark for his lifelong achievements as a priest. This included a special proclamation in Father’s honor presented to him by Bradenton Mayor Gene Brown, a longtime parishioner.

“We remember him was he was a Transitional Deacon and began serving at Bishop Verot (Catholic High School in Fort Myers),” said current Verot teacher Mark Latell. “He was such an inspiration then, just as he is today.”

Father Heuberger was born in Shelby, Ohio, but grew up in Bradenton, going to St. Joseph Catholic School from 1960-1968 and then to Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, graduating in 1972. He went directly into seminary, discerning the priesthood at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and then at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1980 for the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

The first six years of his priesthood included working on the faculty at three different Catholic high schools, including Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers (1980-1982), and Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota (1984-1986) within the Diocese of Venice. While at these schools, Father Heuberger was assigned as Parochial Vicar at St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers; Epiphany Parish in Venice; St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Sarasota; and finally at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota, as well as at two Parish in St. Petersburg. He then became the first Diocese of Venice Youth Director (1985-1989)

A founding member of the Presbyterate of the Diocese of Venice in Florida, it was in 1988 when Father Mark became founding Pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Port Charlotte where he served from 1988 to 1994. During this time, Father also earned an additional advanced degree in 1993 from St. Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut. He was then assigned a term to serve on the faculty of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary as Dean of Pastoral Formation from 1994-1999. Father then had a brief assignment as Pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota (1999-2000), before returning the faculty at the regional seminary from 2000-2003.

Having completed his time in academia, Father Heuberger was appointed as Pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral, serving from 2003 to 2010, before finally being appointed to Saints Peter and Paul the Apostle, returning to his roots in Bradenton.

“The timing for retirement is right as I am healthy and will be able to enjoy myself,” Father said.