By Robyn Kurth
At a groundbreaking event in March at the San Jose Mission in rural Volusia County, nearly 500 people witnessed what the contributions of time, talent and treasure can accomplish through the Alive in Christ campaign.
Parishioners of Annunciation Catholic Church, Altamonte Springs, are living out the Gospel message to have compassion for those in need. One of their priorities for the Alive in Christ Campaign was to help the faith-filled community of San Jose Mission to grow the Body of Christ by supporting their efforts to expand their church and construct a new parish center.
“It’s a joy for us at Annunciation to be part of the community here—the absolutely wonderful community of San Jose,” said Annunciation pastor Monsignor Patrick Caverly. “As time goes on, we certainly hope to have a deeper contact here so that hopefully we can help more and more.”
As a result of funds donated by Annunciation parishioners, the people of the San Jose Mission will finally be able to expand the seating capacity of their church by 60% and have a separate family life center for religious education and other ministries.
“With the help of Alive in Christ from Annunciation we had enough to make a simple building…Otherwise it would have taken us another 25 years,” said Father Raul Valdez, the parochial vicar at St. Peter Catholic Church, who celebrates the Masses at San Jose Mission. “The community over there is a very poor community—most of them work at the ferneries (earning) $200 – $300 per week to support a whole family.”
The parishioners of the San Jose Mission have been raising money for larger facilities through taco sales after Mass—$1 at a time. San Jose Mission was able to raise $800,000 on its own, but it took Annunciation’s contribution of more than $900,000 through the Alive in Christ campaign to initiate the project.
The number of people who belong to the San Jose Mission in rural Volusia County had been expanding rapidly in recent years—with more than 800 immigrant agricultural workers attending Masses, celebrating sacraments and hosting quinceañeras in a multipurpose building that could only seat about 200 people.
Pews were regularly removed to convert the church into a social hall, overflow crowds stood outside for the holy days of obligation, and families seeking faith formation for their children had to find reliable transportation to make the nearly 40 mile round trip to St. Peter Catholic Church in Deland, which is the host parish for this 25 year old mission.
The new building was the dream of many, including San Jose Mission’s deacon Jose Miguel Alvarez, who passed away four years ago. During the Alive in Christ campaign his son, Jose Umberto Alvarez shared the deacon’s vision for the mission with the parishioners at Annunciation.
“I spoke at every one of the Masses for an entire weekend during the Alive in Christ campaign to show them what (the people of San Jose Mission) were working for—it’s just a beautiful thing to see how one parish can come to the aid of another,” said Alvarez.
Jose’s mother Gladys Alvarez recalled the mission’s humble beginnings and how the Church reached out to this underserved population, which includes immigrants who felt marginalized by society. “Our first Mass was under a tree near one of the homes—and we had ten families,” said Gladys. “After we gained their trust, they started opening up their homes, and then we started working on the mission.”
“The site is what the people of San Jose envisioned there. It’s a very secluded site; a very quiet site,” said Jose Alvarez. “Every opportunity they get to try and raise funds, they made it happen—they are very hard working people.”
Annunciation parishioner Mark Keenan and his wife Cindy became involved in the project as a donor and contractor, and members of the San Jose Mission with construction skills are also working on the project. “Hopefully we can do it all within a year and have it finished by next Easter,” said Mark Keenan.
Right before the groundbreaking ceremony, Bishop Noonan addressed the faithful during an outdoor Mass in English and Spanish.
“You, the people of San Jose, have been searching for many years to build a house to worship God, because you recognize that the thirst for God is the thirst to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him with your life,” said Bishop Noonan.
Kurth is the communications manager for the Diocese of Orlando.
Photo by Valeta Orlando.