Dreams really do come true, at least for the parishioners at St. John the Evangelist in Viera. For the past three years they have been dreaming big, hoping to raise funds for their first church through a campaign entitled “God’s Heart…Our Dream”. Through the generosity and support of many people, the dream started to become reality with a Mass celebrated by Bishop John Noonan, June 26th followed by a ground breaking ceremony, and hot dogs and hamburgers to celebrate.
In his homily, Bishop Noonan related the building of this new church to the building of God’s Kingdom here on earth. He explained that, “Freedom comes from knowing God. The freedom of letting the grace of God come into our lives … to give us the freedom above all to serve God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul. That’s why we build the Kingdom of God. That’s why we have a church. That’s why we have a community, because we need a community of faith. You, the people of God come first and you are the ones who are building the Kingdom of God.”
Congregation of the Holy Cross Father Bradley Beaupré, Pastor of St. John the Evangelist, echoed the bishop’s words. He said, “What has impressed me in the eight years I have been here is how the parish has grown and how every year the parishioners seems to grow closer to one another. Certainly, that will be enhanced with our new church. When a parish develops, the main piece is the church, where worship takes place, because from worship we take the Gospels and go out and start to live them.”
Plans for a church in Viera, north of Melbourne, began in 1988 when 20 acres were purchased, but it was not until 2001, when the Congregation of the Holy Cross approached the Diocese of Orlando, offering to provide priests to start the new parish. Holy Cross assigned Father Laurence M. Olszewski, C.S.C., as pastor and Father Robert A. Wiseman, C.S.C., as associate pastor to establish the new community making it the first parish in the Diocese to be served by Holy Cross priests.
After searching for temporary space, the priests settled on using the Brevard County Government Center for weekend Masses and Faith Viera Lutheran Church for daily Mass while plans began to build on the property. However, after much research, it was determined that about ten of the twenty acres were wetlands. The property had apparently become a runoff from developments in the area, rendering it unusable. Eventually, land was purchased in 2001 across from the future Space Coast Stadium where the Washington Nationals baseball team holds spring training.
Excited parishioners participated in the celebration of their first Mass on the grounds in their Parish Life Center on Palm Sunday in March of 2007. The current building houses a daily chapel, a large hall seating 725 people, meeting rooms, an office wing, a choir space and kitchen. Since then, St. John the Evangelist has grown from 300 families to over 2,300. As Holy Cross Father John Britto Antony, Parochial Vicar, put it, “As the Viera community began to flourish and grow due to new construction of homes with family influx from the Space Industry and Aviation Industry, so did the number of the faithful. As the Lord has blessed us with these many families we felt the need of having a proper Church to worship Him.”
The parish is indeed bursting at the seams with activities every night of the week and that has presented its congregation with new challenges. Father Beaupré said that the new church will make room in the Parish Life Center for additional meeting space, concerts, events and various church functions and will assist in the community’s continued growth. Construction will begin soon on the 19,629 square foot church and will take approximately a year to complete. Conceived in a basilica style, the church is expected to seat 1,050 people. “It is a historic moment for Holy Cross and for the parish. This will give us all a chance to celebrate the beginning of a new era in the life of St. John’s,” said Father Beaupré.
In closing, the Bishop asked congregants to be mindful of their parents and grandparents “who planted the seed of faith in your life.” He said, “It was through their dedication and love, through their freedom of allowing the grace of God into their life, to serve their brothers and sisters, like you today are serving your brothers and sisters—not the brothers and sisters just of today, but of the future.”