CLERMONT | The new red church on a hill in Clermont is St. Faustina. If you’re driving down US-27, in Clermont, you can’t miss it. Nearly two decades and five locations later, the faithful of St. Faustina finally have a place to call home. Bishop John Noonan celebrated its dedication Feb. 4, 2023.
Approaching the entrance, one is greeted by a statue of the Divine Mercy, gifted to the parish years ago and kept in storage for some time before placing it in the parish’s last location. John Holz of Plunkett Raysich Architects explained how the sanctuary is reminiscent of two churches in Warsaw, Poland, where St. Faustina lived — St. Mary’s Basilica and St. Joseph.
“If you look at those two churches, we are putting ourselves into the heart and time in which St. Faustina lived and the Divine Mercy whom she experienced,” he told those gathered. “We hope you can be enriched by this architecture and this space is truly an uplifting experience for you.”
Bishop John Noonan further noted, “The color red reflects the Polish people and their flag. The interior beauty and prayerfulness reflect the life of St. Faustina. You, the parishioners, are light to the world, set upon a hill for all to see. The light of Christ has sustained and helped you fulfill your dreams and He will continue to sustain your faith.”
Father Ramón Bolatete serves as pastor, and his face spoke volumes when receiving “the keys”. His broad grin expressed an unbridled joy to welcome his parishioners “home” at last. He noted, since his arrival five years ago, parishioners frequently questioned when they would get a church building.
Many of the parish “pioneers” followed St. Faustina through four locations since 2006: Westgate Inn, Homer’s – an old barbecue restaurant, a strip mall where the parish was nestled between a tattoo parlor and massage center, and then Glenbrook Commons.
“This new building is indeed a tribute to their commitment, generosity and faith,” Father Bolatete said. “Everyone is so thrilled to have our own church for worship and community gatherings, fully equipped to foster and enhance the ideals of welcome, prayer, formation and outreach. If you live in the area, come and join us.”
Original parishioners, Monica and Michael Moletteri, endured the moves with patience and hope. They said they stuck it out because of the community. In their personal life and that of the parish, both acknowledged the intercession of St. Faustina to whom Jesus revealed His Divine Mercy.
“We wanted to fight for our church to be built. We had to persevere,” Monica said. “It was a long journey for us.”
The couple convalidated their marriage at the parish. Their two daughters were teens, and their son, who struggles with autism, was born and baptized there.
“In the beginning it was very hard. Our faith kept us tight and the mercy of God. He’s been wonderful,” Monica said through tears of gratitude and joy.
Joe Seddio, operations manager, acknowledged the “tenacity” of the parishioners like the Moletteris, but said the parish’s success is their “reliance on Jesus for His love and provision.”
“St. Faustina parishioners consistently and unswervingly revere and worship our Lord Jesus as the only king and savior that He is, and fervently pray and band together in that glory and proclamation,” Seddio said. “We give Him all praise and glory and rest upon His promises.”
Present for the momentous occasion was Father Jean Desir, the parish priest who initiated the capital campaign. He recalled his love of Divine Mercy began at St. Faustina, which he carries wherever he goes.
“I became in love with Divine Mercy because we are called to be merciful and compassionate to each person. We are called to be merciful all our lives,” he said. “Without the hands of St. Faustina I don’t think they would have made it because here we see the mercy, patience and compassion of the people, the support of the people. Just as St. Faustina went through a lot, the parishioners inherited that. We suffered. To see them here today, in such large number – this is the day the Lord has made for them and I am so happy.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, February 09, 2023