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Blessed Trinity Catholic Church at 1600 54th Ave South, Saint Petersburg, FL 33712 US - Parish History

Parish History

THE HISTORY OF

BLESSED TRINITY PARISH

 

December 20, 1959 was the beginning date for our parish, for on that date Father William J. Weinheimer and Father James Fahey celebrated the first Mass at the Al Kareem Club, 2175 Pinellas Point Drive South. For about three weeks we were called the South St. Petersburg Mission.  The attendance on that first Sunday numbered 312 and the Collection totaled $224.50. 

 

Father Weinheimer was also to found another Mission in Gulfport. They celebrated their first Mass at the retired Coast Guard Club about 2 weeks after Blessed Trinity.  For about two years these new missions were to grow together, under the leadership of the same pastor.  On many Sundays the attendance was greater in Gulfport, and sometimes Blessed Trinity had the larger collection, other times it was Gulfport.

 

During the week of January 10, 1960, Archbishop Hurley named this Mission “Blessed Trinity.”  It was not yet a parish, as the Parish Boundaries were not yet set.

 

February 16, 1960, Archbishop Hurley canonically established Blessed Trinity Parish, with its parish boundaries:

on the North 38th Avenue South

on the East - the Hillsborough - Pinellas

County line (in Tampa Bay)

            on the South - the Hillsborough - Pinellas

                        County Line (Sunshine Skyway)           

            on the West - Boca Ciega Bay.

 

            During the Spring of 1960 Father Weinheimer had a heart attack, and on June 19, Father Frank Goodman came to Blessed Trinity as the Pastor of Blessed Trinity, as well as Holy Name in Gulfport.  Toward the end of July, Father Goodman started to raise money for the first Blessed Trinity Church.  The working drawings were completed in October and the Parish got off to a full fledged, door to door building fund drive. 

On November 20, 1960 there was the ground breaking for the Church. Maps were distributed in Church, as there was no 54th Avenue at the time, and everyone had to come in by way of Alhambra Way South.

 

            On March 19, 1961, the first Mass was celebrated in the Church, which is now the Parish Hall.  Requests went out in the bulletin to form a choir so that High Mass could be sung for Easter. Everyone was encouraged to use their envelopes.  The Church was dedicated on April 23, 1961 by Archbishop Hurley. Special instructions came to the parish from the Archbishop’s secretary that the entire parish respond to the prayers, “Strong and in unison” and that at the end of Mass, the “Holy God”  be sung “with ardor.”

 

Coffee and doughnuts were to be served by the Men’s Club, beginning the next Sunday in the Social Hall, known today as the Small Hall.  In June, pleas went out for leaders to form a Boy Scout Troop, and also for a volunteer to take charge of the parish lending library.

 

Christmas 1961, the attendance that first Christmas in the new Church was 838 and the Christmas collection totaled $1,607.42.

 

January 28, 1962, the Men’s Club and the Women’s Club hosted a reception for their new pastor, Father Louis Bentivoglio.  This was the splitting of the two parishes.  Father Goodman would remain Pastor of Holy Name Parish, Gulfport and Father Bentivoglio would be the Pastor of Blessed Trinity Parish.

 

On June 3, 1962, there was an announcement that GUEST would be starting soon on Friday Evenings.  This is basically the same game as BINGO except in those days, GUEST was legal, and BINGO was not. The big Jackpot was $40.00.

 

In October of 1962, Father Ray Gromala came to Blessed Trinity to conduct a Triduum of Prayer in preparation for the first session of the Second Vatican Council.

            On February 10, 1963 the new phone number of the parish was announced, 867 3663, and it remains the same today.

 

            April 25, 1963 the HOBBY Club was meeting on Thursday mornings. Could this be a fore-runner of our Women’s Club - craft workshop which now meets on Thursday Mornings?

 

            February 2, 1964, the bulletin announced the new rectory address as 1600 54th Avenue South.

 

            March 28, 1965 the Boy Scout Troop #202 received a Certificate from Father Ed Martineau, Pastor of St. Anthony’s Church Brooksville, because of their continuous attendance at Mass and Holy Communion during their many years of camping in the Brooksville area.

 

            During these early years of parish formation, the parish operated a School Bus, to take children from the parish to the various Catholic Elementary and High Schools they attended.  They also had a red trailer on the parking lot to collect paper; however, many Sundays, the bulletin said; “Please don’t bring any paper until further notice, the trailer is full, and there is no one interested in buying that paper.”

 

            September 5, 1965, the new Pastor was announced, Father James F. Herlihy.

 

            For about 20 years, there was no further information on Church attendance or amount of collections published in the Sunday bulletin, however, there was a spiritual report for the year 1966. As a comparison, I am also giving you the figures for July 1996 - June 1997

                                              1966        1996-97        

            Baptisms                      40               47

            Funerals                       12               50

            First Communions         43               44

            Marriages                       9               15

 

            During the time that Father Herlihy was pastor, most of the changes in the Mass took place: the  reading of the Epistle and Gospel in English, (they no longer had to be read in latin); moving the altar away from the wall, so that the priest could celebrate Mass facing the people; the change from the prayers at the foot of the altar to the penitential rite; the priest presiding at the Liturgy of the Word from the chair; the shortening of the Offertory Rite; and deleting the Last Gospel at the end of Mass; more congregational singing; more participation by the laity as lectors.  Finally, there was the change of the Eucharistic Prayer into English, and the whole Mass was celebrated in English. There was also introduced the three year Cycle for the Scripture readings and additional Eucharistic Prayers.

 

            There was a request for prayers at the death of Archbishop Hurley in November 1967, and the welcome announcement of Bishop Paul J. Tanner, as the new Bishop in  March 1968. Also, a few months later there was the announcement and installation of Bishop Charles B. McLaughlin as the first bishop of the new diocese of St. Petersburg in June 1968.

 

            On April 19, 1970, Father Herlihy commented that many neighboring parishes were celebrating a Saturday Evening Mass, and asked if anyone would be interested in having a Saturday Evening Vigil Mass at Blessed Trinity.  Apparently enough were interested and the first Saturday Evening Vigil Mass was celebrated here on July 4, 1970.

 

            March 4, 1971, Father Herlihy wrote a letter to the parishioners concerning the inadequacy of the church and the need for future expansion.  There were 600 families and projections for at least another 300 more.  He asked them to fill out a survey.  55 said: expand the present Church; 122 said: build a new Church; 29 said: “No” to both; and 4 said: “Yes” to both. 78 said build a new Rectory.

 

            In January 1972, the Parish Building Committee recommended that a New Church be built on the property at the corner of 16th Street and 54th Ave.  It will be built for 600 people and eliptical in design.

 

            During the summer of 1972, a Charismatic Prayer Meeting was begun at Blessed Trinity. They started in the social Hall, and eventually moved to the Church.  This large community touched many lives and grew in numbers, but eventually died out in December 1986.

 

            During this time it seems there was concern with cars in the parking lot, as there was frequent mention of following the directional arrows.  Also there was a continual concern about promptness at Mass.  They had a special slogan: THE PRIEST IS THE LAST ONE IN AND THE FIRST ONE OUT!” This seems to be a perennial problem with latecomers and those who leave Mass early.

 

            In early July 1973, Harold Seckinger, the architect for the new church, presented the plans to the parish building committee. In November, a parish development fund committee was organized, and by December there were pledges of over $150,000, for the building of the new Church.

 

            The first Masses were celebrated in the new church (our present church) on September 5, 1976, and its formal dedication by Bishop McLaughlin took place on October 10, 1976.

 

            The St. Vincent dePaul Society, was always a vital ministry in our parish.  The fourth Sunday of the month had been set aside for many years as “Food Sunday.”

 

            In the bulletin of August 20, 1978, was the announcement that Father John Colgan was to be the new Administrator of Blessed Trinity. He was appointed pastor in June 1979.

 

            In the bulletin of March 30, 1980, Father Colgan gave a report on the education center drive, with a total of $224,172 pledged.  An “Open House” was announced at the new priests’ rectory on Alhambra Way South in the September 14, 1980 Bulletin.

 

            In the January 25, 1981 bulletin, Father Colgan announces that Bishop Larkin has assigned him to St. Joseph Parish, Zephyrhills, and that Father Edward Dunne will be the new Administrator of Blessed Trinity.

            The first Blessed Trinity team for “Christ Renews His Parish” went to the Franciscan Center in Tampa the Weekend of October 16-18, 1981 for training.  This was a strong renewal program here at Blessed Trinity until about 1985, when it died out, but was revived again in September 1996.

 

            In July 1982, Father James Russo was welcomed to Blessed Trinity as a priest in residence, since he had duties at the Chancery as Chairman of the Diocesan Office of Liturgy.  He left for a short time, but returned in November 1983 as the new Pastor, succeeding Fr Edward Dunne, who took a position as Director of Adult Education for the Diocese. Father Russo was installed as pastor on March 18, 1984.

 

            Early in 1984, Father Russo changed the company that did the weekly bulletin to Diocesan Publications, the company that continues to supply our weekly bulletin.  Father Russo also started once again of putting in the weekly bulletin the amount in the Sunday collection, building fund and poor box collections, as well as, the total weekly expenses. In one bulletin he commented that several people have noticed that our weekly income does not meet our weekly expenses. He responded (and it is still true) that we make up the difference in our weekly expenses, from the Christmas and Easter Collections, bingo receipts, donations from parish societies and when our winter residents come, we save for the summer months when there are less parishioners here.

 

            September 1, 1985, Labor Day Weekend was to mark the beginning of the parish 25th Jubilee Celebration. However, ‘Elena’ came, and many plans were changed. The parish hall became the refuge for “The Children of the Storm.” People came and brought food and blankets for those who had to leave their homes because of the storm.  On Sunday afternoon, when it seemed that everything was over, the roof covering the sanctuary of the church fell, and the heavy rain poured into the church. An emergency church repair fund was called, asking for $60,000 donations in one week to repair and refurbish the Church. The fund totaled over $69,000, which enabled not only simple repairs, but also further beautification and enhancements to the Church.

 

            February 15, 1987, Father Lau was appointed Administrator of Blessed Trinity Parish by Bishop Larkin. He was appointed Pastor on September 15, 1988.  Shortly after his arrival here at Blessed Trinity, Father Lau opened the Diakonia Office as a service center for the parishioners on the weekend.  He inaugurated the Wednesday Morning Prayer of Intercession and Anointing of the Sick, purchased the Worship III and Gather Hymnals, entitled his weekly column in the Bulletin “Cross Currents” and took the daily Mass intentions out of the weekly bulletin and printed them on a sheet for the whole month, together with the Sunday and daily Scripture references.

 

            In February 1989, he installed a new Allen Organ in the Choir Loft, replacing the Rodgers that was there.  He placed decorative organ pipes in the front of the Church. 

 

            In October 1990, the parish purchased three octaves of Hand Bells. In April 1991, the parish purchased a fifteen passenger Ford van to bring people to and from Church on Sunday Mornings.

 

            In September 1993, the parish worked out a prayer partnership with the Cistercian Sisters of Our Lady of the Valley Monastery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin.  This is where we get the hosts which we use for the Holy Eucharist here at Blessed Trinity.

 

            On February 14, 1994, the new Educational Buildings here at Blessed Trinity were dedicated. Bethany Circle (a ministry for the bereaved after a funeral) was inaugurated, as well as, the Courtyard Club to look after the plants around the fountain in the Courtyard.

 

            On May 15, 1994, the MOM’s club and other parish organizations sponsored the first “Unity Breakfast.” They also invited parishioners and other local artists to display their work.

 

            September 1994, saw the beginning of the Little Rock Scripture Study program here at Blessed Trinity which is a program of prayer and Scripture study developed in the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

            The Spring of 1996, saw the convocation of the Parish Congress, with the theme of “Planning for the Millenium: Blessed Trinity in the year 2000.”

 

June 16, 1996, Bishop Robert Lynch appointed Father Anton Dechering as Pastor of Blessed Trinity Parish. He was installed November 17, 1996.

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