Naples Parish celebrates 50th

St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples celebrated its Golden Jubilee with a trilingual Mass and celebration to mark the occasion on June 9, 2024.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Mass, which included readings, petitions and music in English, Spanish and Creole, reflecting the diverse but unified nature of the Parish. Celebrating the Mass were Father Gerard “G” Critch, as well as numerous priests who have served through the years or are from neighboring Parishes.

“This 50th anniversary is something special,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is a day of prayer; a day we give thanks, glory and praise to God, and it is done in different languages and that is a blessing. Your dynamic Parish personifies this every day.”


Bishop Dewane noted the great good the faithful at St. Peter the Apostle have done, living in a way that Christ is encountered both within the walls of the church and by people in the community, spreading the Good News of the Lord far and wide. Ongoing outreach includes supporting migrant farmworkers, giving back to the needy, being a place of care when hurricanes have impacted the community, and much more.

“As St. Peter’s celebrates 50 years, it is appropriate to look back and reflect upon those who laid the building stones to raise up this Parish to where it is today,” the Bishop said. “We pray for the living and the dead, and for the priests and deacons who have served the Parish throughout the years, grateful for the dedication which has gone into making this Parish what it is today. There is a bright future here and may the next 50 years build upon what has only just started here in Naples.”

Father Critch said the Parish has been blessed for its 50 years and for that he is grateful. “This is a celebration for all who have passed through these doors and have shared in our earthly pilgrimage, we are deeply grateful to you, Oh Lord. Loving Father, may we, as your people, remain faithful to you and your holy Catholic Church until the end of the days. “

St. Peter the Apostle Parish was erected in Naples on June 11, 1974, and has more than 4,500 families with seven weekend Masses in three languages. The founding Pastor was Father Michael Hickey, and the Mass was first celebrated at a local school. The first church was dedicated in 1978 and the current church was dedicated in 1995. The Parish Spirit Center, which includes the Parish Hall and offices, was dedicated in 2019.

At the reception, a video retrospective was shared, offering glimpses into the Parish’s past and letting the current faithful see some of the faces of parishioners who were there at the beginning.

Founding Parishioner Mary Ann O’Neill reflected upon how when the founding Pastor, Father Hickey, arrived, he needed everything, not only a place to celebrate Mass but an altar and more. “These were very simple beginnings. The area of south Naples was kind of wild, but as the area grew, the Parish has grown so much, but we are still the same St. Peter’s.”

Many noted how Corrina Hernandez helped found the Hispanic Ministry, focusing first on farmworkers but later on building up the faith by welcoming them to a Spanish-language Mass. Likewise, the Haitian outreach first focused on supporting farmworkers before bringing the faithful for a Mass in Creole.

“The Holy Spirit has championed the different and diverse cultural communities through the language of love,” Father Critch said. “That is who we are here at St. Peter, one loving community dedicated to the glory of God.”

For the celebration, a buffet of international cuisine allowed everyone to enjoy a variety of delicacies. In addition, there were dancers and musicians in Aztec garb who performed prior to Mass, led the faithful from church to the reception in the Parish Spirit Center, and again showed their talents while everyone enjoyed the 50th anniversary party. Also performing were two bagpipers, as well as choirs representing the three major languages.

Pregnancy clinics celebrate 50 years

Community Pregnancy Clinics, Inc. (CPCI), celebrated its “Legacy of Life” with a 50th anniversary Gala on April 6, 2024, in Naples.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered the invocation for the event, and proceeds will go to support CPCI’s four clinics, two mobile vans, and continued Pro-Life outreach which has helped save thousands of babies from the evil that is abortion.

Scott Baier, CEO of CPCI, said that the first clinic started in 1973 as a grassroots effort from St. Ann Parish in Naples, in the wake of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision which paved the way to allow open access to abortion. Since that time the work of CPCI to help end abortion – one mother, one father, and baby at a time, has remained unchanged.

“By helping our mothers feel loveable, we make them more love-able, able to choose life for their babies and avoid the pain and suffering that would have come with the choice for abortion,” Baier said.

There are CPCI clinics in Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, and Gainesville which provide free ultrasound, counseling, and support services for young families in crisis. To reach people where they live, work, and go to college, two mobile vans offer similar services.  The ultrasounds used in the various clinics and vans are provided courtesy of the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative.

CPCI also runs programs that educate young women and men about sexual and relationship health, which aim to help prevent unplanned pregnancies that often result in an abortion.

To learn more about the work of Community Pregnancy Clinics, please visit

“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.

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.

Hispanic Festival a part of Parish Jubilee

When it comes to planning the 50th Jubilee of the Parish, there is an option to host one large celebration or to be more inclusive and include commemorations which reflect the broad cultural diversity of the faith community. St. Peter the Apostle Parish, erected in Naples on June 11, 1974, has opted to host many Jubilee celebrations in the coming months, culminating in a big event in June 2024.

Therefore, Oct. 22, 2023, was the day of a Hispanic Festival at St. Peter’s, with more than 1,000 celebrating this diverse community with food, music, dance and ethnic clothing.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was present and offered a prayer for the Festival participants, as well as for the continued success of the ongoing Parish Jubilee celebrations.

Father Gerard Critch, St. Peter the Apostle Pastor, said he was pleased by the response to the Hispanic Festival and said he was delighted to have such a vibrant Parish community that includes people of many different backgrounds.

Father Wilian Montalvo Tello, Parochial Vicar at St. Peter who supports the spiritual needs of the Hispanic community, was overjoyed by the celebration, and held a wide grin as he wore the traditional clothing of his native Peru.

Also present was Father Alejandro Giraldo-Roldan, Parochial Vicar serving the Hispanic faithful at nearby St. Elizabeth Seton and St. Agnes Parishes. Father is a native of Columbia who was ordained to the priesthood in July.

The Festival began with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This was followed by a procession and music led by performers dressed in Mayan and Aztec garb.

Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, participants had the opportunity to sample cuisine from more than a dozen Latin American countries. On the stage, there was a constant rotation of singers and dancers from the various countries.

As the music played, many sang along with the more traditional ballads. Throughout, nearly everyone present had small flags on their lapels, while most wore hats and traditional clothing or the colors of their homeland. Another option was to wear a shirt of the national sports team.

No matter where everyone was from, be it Latin America, the United States or elsewhere, a great time was had by all. As Father Critch explained, everyone better be prepared to party over and over again as the Jubilee celebration continues!