Parish celebrates 90 years

The passage of time at a Parish can be counted by the number of Masses and significant sacramental moments which take place through the years, such as the baptisms, First Holy Communions, confirmations, weddings and funerals.

It has been 90 years since St. Margaret Parish was established to support the growing Catholic community in Clewiston, located in Hendry County, along the south shore of Lake Okeechobee. The joy of the faithful was reflected in the presence of a large crowd and the enthusiasm they had during the celebration of such an important milestone.

To mark the occasion, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass on Feb. 5, 2022, just two days short of the actual anniversary. Present to concelebrate the Mass was Father Jean Woady Louis, the current Parish Administrator, as well as several priests who served at St. Margaret through the years, and priests from the neighboring Parishes.

Bishop Dewane said reaching 90 years is no small achievement and that the celebration was as much about those who came before, as it is about those who breathe life into the Parish today and those who will continue to do so long into the future.

“The celebration gives thanks to God for what has been provided to this community for the past 90 years, and to ask for what needs to be provided as we move forward,” the Bishop said.

The establishment of the Parish and the dedication of the Church took place at the same time, Feb. 7, 1922, but more importantly established St. Margaret Parish and its’ people as the living Temples of God.

“You are the reason for the celebration today,” Bishop Dewane continued. “As human beings created in the image and likeness of God. We literally have the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts and in our midst. We need to evidence that more clearly – day in and day out; by the life we live, by the actions we do. Answer the question: Am I living like the Church – where people might meet God? If you are having trouble doing this, find within yourself the correction needed, and then set out to be that witness.”

Bishop Dewane said that thinking back 90 years, how Clewiston has grown, been challenged and stumbled, but keeps coming back; this is how each of us must be in our own life. “Be careful who we are spiritually – be the Temple of the Lord.”

The Bishop also thanked the many priests who served the people of God in Clewiston through the years. He specifically mentioned the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Light, who are currently serving the faithful in many ways, as well as the religious sisters who previously served, including the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who were present from 1973-2000.

Father Woady said the anniversary is a time to offer sincerest gratitude to the Lord.

“Through 90 years of prayers and understanding, we pray this ceremony will bring us closer as one family in Jesus Christ as it is our duty and best effort to keeping the faith alive,” Father Woady concluded.

A special moment in the larger celebration came when young children danced. Special gifts were also presented to Bishop Dewane, including baskets filled with the many items grown in this rural community, such as sugar cane, fruits, and vegetables.

“This is such a wonderful day,” said Magdalena Lopez. “Having the Bishop celebrate Mass for us means so much to St. Margaret Parish.”

To accommodate the large number of people, representing both the Parish and nearby Santa Rosa de Lima Mission, the Mass was celebrated in the Parish Hall. Even that was not large enough as a tent was necessary to accommodate the large crowd. Also present for the Mass were members of the Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus.

After the Mass, a take-out barbecue meal was enjoyed.