By Laura Dodson, Florida Catholic Correspondent – August 30, 2017
MELBOURNE | “You people of Blessed Sacrament Church have been cared for by our loving Father, by the gift of the Sacraments – the gift of Eucharist,” said Bishop John Noonan in his homily August 27 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Cocoa parish. “You have been given a name which reflects the most important Sacrament and you have become a sacrament of who you are in Jesus Christ.”
The parish was established by Archbishop Joseph Patrick Hurley in the then Diocese of St. Augustine on July 27, 1967 and Masses were celebrated in the Four Communities Fire Department and Fairglen Elementary School until the new church was built. Groundbreaking was in December of 1968; the first Mass was celebrated Easter Sunday April 6, 1969 and the new church was dedicated by Archbishop William D. Borders – first Bishop of the Diocese of Orlando on September 14, 1969.
“We’re so proud of our little parish,” said Jack Simpson who with his wife Lorraine were founders, “its location is separated and it’s a special little community all its own.”
The Simpsons have been married 61 years and raised four children in the parish. The Simpsons have served in most of the parish ministries throughout the years; they consider it their home.
“As you walk in the church, there’s a feeling of peace and you know you’re in God’s presence,” Lorraine said.
Bishop Noonan provided a retrospective of 1967 with a litany of the many songs and events of that year. Salvatorian Father Mark Sarniewicz, pastor added still another significant event of the year – his birthday.
“Happy Anniversary!” Father Sarniewicz exclaimed, “We gather around the Lord’s table to celebrate our Jubilee – the communion of our family. Today we remember everyone who was dedicated to this community – to our Blessed Sacrament and we say thank you.”
Present for the celebration in addition to Bishop Noonan and the pastor were former pastors Redemptorist Father Anthony Quinlivan, now retired and Salvatorian Father Krzysztof Bugno, current pastor of St. Teresa Parish in Titusville as well as deacons: Richard J. Basso, Nick Varsolona and Bill Sheldon.
“There are a lot of people who don’t feel like getting up in the morning to go to work,” said Deacon Basso who was ordained in 1988 – the parish’s first deacon who has served tirelessly ever since, “but I love to get up – this is not work.”
Raul and Leslie Pena have been married 16 years and parishioners for 10. They were honored to present the gifts at Mass while their son Ethan and daughter Lindsey served at the altar.
“We want our children to be raised in the church here,” said Leslie who is also a minister to the sick. “I really want to serve the Lord and it’s my way to do it.”
“I love the church,” Raul added, “it’s a great community – very supportive everyone is there for you – even if you don’t ask them – they’re there.”
The parish has seen significant growth in facilities and services to become the vibrant, vital community that it is. Because of its location near correctional facilities, Blessed Sacrament has maintained a very active ministry to the incarcerated. They have a thriving thrift shop on the property, as well as day care and ministry to the youth.
“It is such a beautiful day today,” concluded Father Sarniewicz, “and I am happy to be with you to celebrate this beautiful anniversary in our lives – to be together and share the love and Word of God that people are waiting to hear. This celebration is a celebration of us. It is very important to be together in one family.”