“Magical” Gala commemorates Parish 50th

A champagne toast kicked off the St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish 50th Anniversary “Magical” Gala on Feb. 23, 2024, on Longboat Key.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane gave the blessing before the meal, adding that his blessing was for all the faithful, living and the dead, and for those priests who have served in the Parish throughout the years.

Father Robert Dziedziak, Pastor of St. Mary, Star of the Sea, said it was appropriate to celebrate, but “we are here because of our faith; our relationship with Christ; and our love of the Church; as we want to grow in our relationship with Christ in serving others.”

Father Dziedziak said that he considers the faithful of the Parish his family.

Linda Olsen, Pastoral Council member and Gala event chair, agrees with that sentiment, having been regularly attending Mass on Longboat Key for 30 years while splitting time between a home in Illinois.

“It is not just about sitting in the pews, but everyone loves everyone, and we all get involved,” Olsen said. “We are a Parish family filled with gratitude for the blessings we have been given by the Lord to be here at St. Mary, Star of the Sea.”

Masses were first celebrated in Longboat Key by Father Edward Pick at a youth center and then at a firehouse on the north end of the island between 1969 and 1973. When it became a Parish, on Dec. 8, 1973, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with Father Pick named as the first Pastor, St. Mary, Star of the Sea was in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. 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. The Parish has about 1,000 registered families, but the numbers increase greatly during the winter months.

The Gala concluded a series of celebrations commemorating the history of the Parish.