Father Hurtado, St. Augustine Parish
CASSELBERRY | With his hand over his heart and a huge smile on his face, new pastor Father Tomás Hurtado triumphantly raised the keys to St. Augustine parish up to God. “As a priest I know that Jesus calls me to serve everyone, that is why I have always tried to give my respect and love to all people of all ages and cultural backgrounds,” he said after his installation on January 25 in Casselberry. As Father Hurtado frequently tells his parishioners, “We are ALL St. Augustine.” The crowd in the packed sanctuary eagerly rejoiced in the appointment.
Ordained in Santa Clara, Cuba in 2002, Father Hurtado arrived in Orlando in 2005, after serving two years in Miami. He first served the faithful of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Kissimmee. Later, he moved to St. John Vianney in Orlando and then St. Francis of Assisi in Apopka where he tended to a large immigrant population. He requested incardination and was received officially into the diocese in July of 2016. Shortly thereafter, he went to St. Augustine Parish where he was parochial administrator until his installation as pastor.
Growing up under the restrictions of a communist regime, Father Hurtado has welcomed the opportunity to serve his community openly and joyfully, without reservation. “What has moved me the most from St. Augustine’s parishioners has been their love and passion for the community, their sense of belonging and their ability to work together when we have had to face challenges,” he said.
Last September he had the honor of celebrating the parish’s 50th anniversary, ushering it into another decade. Of his four years at St. Augustine, he says, “I believe that I have brought my love and respect for the Eucharist, which is the center of our community life… and a joyful experience of meeting a living God.” He added, “I have shared my conviction that as sons and daughters of the same God we are all equal.”
As a pastor, his goal is to “create disciples, Christians committed to being Christ to the world. With St. Augustine’s pastoral council, we have worked on a parish strategic plan for five years. Now that I have been formally installed as pastor, we can finish and start implementing it.”
Father Kandora, St. Mark the Evangelist Parish
SUMMERFIELD | He’s a long way from home and on an amazing spiritual mission. Father Rafal Kandora’s “yes” to our Lord brought him from his native Poland to Manhattan and eventually to Summerfield, FL in rural Marion County. The newly installed pastor looks forward to the future and sees exciting things for St. Mark the Evangelist Parish.
“I am understanding more what the Church and what the priesthood is,” he said to parishioners. “It is not something for myself. It is a gift for each one of you.” Father Kandora then bowed before God and Bishop John Noonan after receiving the keys to the parish on January 26.
“I know that (becoming pastor) is a huge responsibility before the Lord,” he reflected. “Once I read, the pastor’s greatest responsibility to the Church does not begin with his faithfulness as a pastor. It begins with his faithfulness as a Christian. It means that before someone can be a faithful shepherd, one must be a faithful Christian.”
Father Kandora is a religious extern of the Order of St. Paul the First Hermit – better known as the Pauline Fathers – a monastic order with a love of liturgical prayer and devotion to Our Lady. While they are the pillars of his spirituality, Father Kandora believes this is the call for all Christians. “It is so easy for me to take it for granted that I am baptized,” he shared with the crowd. “But if the Church is the reality where God is calling us, it means He has called each one of you here.” Picking up a brick he brought with him, he added, “We are the living stones. A building is not one brick. The Church is built with bricks that create something, one Church. It means that each one of us has a role and mission in Church.”
Father Kandora has been ordained for 10 years and is now leading the parish during its 10th anniversary. He prays “just living the Way” will inspire others. He also takes comfort in the following words of Saint Augustine of Hippo on the anniversary of his ordination, ‘For you, I am a bishop, with you, after all, I am a Christian. The first is the name of an office undertaken, the second a name of grace; that one means danger, this one salvation.’
Looking ahead, the pastor is focused on the parish motto: “Where friends become family.” He noted, “We are all so different… To be a Christian is not just a coincidence… we’ve been called by name to change the world. So let us thank God for this community which is the instrument, in God’s hands, to spread his love and mercy.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic January 27, 2020