Flags from 30 nations billowed in the sanctuary above people of all colors, different languages, different cultures – a beautiful representation of growing faith in Brevard County. “There are people from all over,” parishioner Theresa Wood proudly shared. “That’s what I like. I look across at other people and they don’t all look like me. They look like the people of God.”
The community of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Palm Bay celebrated its 25th anniversary of dedication on Saturday June 29. Bishop Thomas Grady created the parish in 1989 and staffed it by contracting with the Servite Order of priests. Although none of those original priests are alive today, their legacy of diversity and serving the poor lives on.
Bishop Norbert Dorsey dedicated the parish on June 13, 1993, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. 25 years later, on the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Bishop John Noonan reminded those gathered that Jesus’ cousin spoke of decreasing, as Christ must increase. He said, “This day is a reminder to all of us that we too are called to prepare the way of the Lord, even today in our lives. When you receive the Eucharist it is a moment again to prepare the way of the Lord. So as we reflect on John the Baptist’s role in life, we are reminded that we are all called to imitate, to believe, and above all to follow the gift that John the Baptist received.”
Father Emmanuel Akalue, Parochial Administrator, and Father Vilaire Philius, Parochial Vicar, concelebrated Mass with Bishop Noonan. Father Akalue noted, “We are the microcosm of all of America. There are many ethnic groups of different countries of origin here. We love it.” He also credited the 4th Bishop of Orlando, Thomas Wenski, with encouraging ethnic ministries with today’s strong presence of such varied cultures. Father Philius helps serve the Haitian community while Father Thomas Shea, a retired priest from the Holy Cross Order, continues to attend to the Hispanic community.
Our Lady of Grace has grown significantly over the past 25 years on 10 acres of land off Malabar road and there are no signs of slowing down. The small house that first came with the lot still stands as tribute to the past, and as a shining beacon of God’s Will today. Inside is a food pantry that feeds hundreds of hungry people along with showers for the homeless.
Father Akalue looks forward to the next 25 years. “Become excited for your faith,” he told parishioners. “Allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you and to help you be soaked in the Word of God. Allow the Spirit to use you in ways you cannot imagine… That Spirit will take you to horizons that you cannot see right now.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – June 25, 2018