For eight years, the parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Wildwood have envisioned the day when a new, larger church would be built. That day is almost here. On August 27, Bishop John Noonan will dedicate and bless the newly constructed church in Wildwood.
To help fund the project, St. Vincent de Paul parishioners joined the first wave of the Alive in Christ Capital and Endowment Campaign in 2007, eventually raising more than $1.5 million or 163% of their parish goal. The new worship space is being built at a cost of $5M and the parish has paid for the project in full and will not incur debt from the construction.
“We are responding to the extraordinary growth in The Villages and the Wildwood area. The church aims at making God more visible, His presence more accessible, and His love more available,” said Father Peter Puntal, pastor, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.
St. Vincent de Paul began in 1973 as a mission of St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Bushnell. The Sumter County parish grew exponentially once the current church was constructed in 1994. By 2005, when then-Bishop Thomas Wenski established St. Vincent de Paul as its own parish, the community was already struggling with a lack of space. The parish schedules nine Masses each weekend to accommodate the number of parishioners.
The existing church has enough pews and chairs to accommodate 600 people. During the winter months 150 extra chairs are added outside when seasonal residents are in town.
The new church will have an estimated seating capacity of approximately 1,000 in the pews. It will feature two reconciliation rooms, a hospitality room, and a choir practice room. The design plan also includes both a working sacristy and a vesting sacristy, which are combined into one small space in the current church. The Narthex is quite spacious and there is room for additional seating if needed. The design allows for expansion in the future by adding additional seating area at the transepts and narthex.
The congregation comes not just from Wildwood but also the vast retirement community of The Villages, and other areas nearby.
“The growth has been dynamic at our parish. We started with 167 parishioners and the church now has nearly 5,000 parishioners. The excellent attitude and support of the community has been such a blessing,” said Father Peter Sagorski, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul from 2002 to July 1, 2013.