“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!

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