KISSIMMEE | “I’ve been crying since the cross was raised onto the building,” said Nilda Reyes, a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena from the very beginning. “We finally have our temple.” Together with more than 1,000 faithful, she welcomed Bishop John Noonan as he dedicated the new church and altar on June 22 – a dream 20 years in the making.
The bishop, pastor Father José Bautista, his friend and former fellow seminarian Bishop J. Mark Spalding of the Diocese of Nashville, Father Nazaire Massillon and Deacons Pablo Laguna, Wilfrid Tilus, Esteban Cruz, Juan Vargas, and Angel Morales processed from the multi-purpose building to the new sanctuary. Thirty-three parishioners dressed as St. Catherine of Siena followed, in honor of their patron saint and in recognition of the years Christ lived on earth. Pausing at the doors, Bishop Noonan blessed the building and gave Father Bautista the ceremonial keys representing the Church’s values: safety, courtesy, efficiency, respect and mercy.
Rich with symbolism, the new building recalls Scripture beginning with the baptismal font. Its octagon shape depicts the seven days of creation and the resurrection, told through sculpted images on each facet. The lower font allows submersion, echoing the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River. In the center, there is a mosaic of a dove that honors the Holy Spirit.
“You can see a modern building with attributes of old churches,” says Jorge Coriano, parish business manager. From the rosette over the doors to the 30-foot ceilings in the narthex, there is a sense of history and tradition mixed with a new and vibrant church. “The limestone path takes you on a journey from sanctification through Baptism to the Eucharistic table,” Coriano explained.
Beautiful statues of St. Catherine and the Archangel Michael serve as guides, hewn from wood carved in Ecuador, the same as the crucifix. The altar is flanked by both Mary and Joseph, and a relic of St. Catherine lies beneath the altar. Each detail was selected by parishioners and clergy on the construction committee. The altar, ambo, tabernacle stand and chandeliers were all gifts from Annunciation Parish in Altamonte Springs.
St. Catherine of Siena was established as a mission in 1994 and guided by the faithful of Holy Redeemer Parish. The community once met in family homes, a shopping plaza that was torn apart by a tornado, a Knights of Columbus hall, clubhouse and later a multi-purpose center. This blessed dedication could not have been more anticipated. When the multi-purpose center was built in 1998, it was immediately obvious more room would be needed for God’s ever-expanding kingdom in Kissimmee.
Designed by John Holtz of by Plunkett Raysich Architects, LLC and built by Henkelman Construction, Inc., the sanctuary foresees an evolving congregation, with walls fortified for future additions. The old multi-purpose building will become the Parish Life Center, continuing to serve the needs of parish ministries and religious education.
Carmen Muñoz, another original parishioner and member of the construction committee, said the entire Mass was an emotional experience. Her three children were under the age of 10 when they first arrived. Her daughter sang in the choir and was an altar server. She remembers fundraising through dances, raffles, sales of frituras (fritters) and many other creative enterprises.
“This is a lifetime opportunity to be a part of a church dedication,” said Muñoz. “There were challenges, but the reward is greater. Watching the expectation and excitement of our older people who have waited so long for this moment… there are no words for it.” Also reflecting on the many who did not live to see the outcome, fellow parishioner, Reyes noted, “I am 70 years old and I thought I would never see it. It all touched my soul. I give gratitude to God for all who worked so hard—those who are here and those watching over us in Heaven.”
Pastor, Father Bautista agreed. “We built on the rich foundation of the many people who have gone before us, carrying on the mission to live the life of Christ in humble service to others,” he said. “As the Master builder, God, places His living stones, we are connected to one another in the body of Christ our Lord, the foundation Stone; thus, our new church building is truly the reflection of the people who made it possible. Let us continue our mission as Disciples of Jesus Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – June 24, 2019