St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church at 1924 Zephyr Ave, PO Box 2020, Fort Pierce, FL 34982 US - History of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish, Fort Pierce, FLHistory of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish, Fort Pierce, FL
Bishop William D. Borders, of the Diocese of Orlando, erected St. Mark the Evangelist on March 11, 1972. He appointed the then 40 year-old Peter Dolan as the first pastor. Irish-born Dolan inherited ten acres of land donated by Msgr. Michael Beerhalter, the venerable pastor of St. Anastasia Parish, Ft. Pierce. In the early days, weekend Masses were offered at the Knights of Columbus Hall on U.S. #1 and at St. Anastasia’s auditorium. Dolan, with about 600 households in the parish, led parishioners on a door-to-door census to seek donations to build a multi-purpose church/social hall. The first services were held in the new building on Easter 1974 (April 14). A second fund drive was spear-headed by Dolan to raise the Offertory Collection. Then, a third fund drive took place to fund the construction of a new Social Hall, which was completed in 1978, when the entire space of the church was given over to worship services.
In the summer of 1979 the 48 year-old Irish-born Richard Murphy was named as the second pastor, while Fr. Dolan was assigned as pastor of St. Lucie Parish, Port St. Lucie.
During that transitional year of 1979, the parish had 50 baptisms, 22 marriages, 20 First Communions, and 22 funerals, with about 1,600 registered households.
Without approaching parishioners for funds, Fr. Murphy, who served as the Dean of the Northern Deanery after the new diocese of Palm Beach was created in October1984, built a new rectory on parish property in 1985. After serving twenty-two years as pastor, Fr. Murphy retired in the summer of 2002. Thirty-seven year-old Thomas Barrett, a native-born Floridian, was assigned as the third pastor.
In 2002 the parish had 22 baptisms, 20 First Communions, 9 marriages, and 35 funerals, with almost 1,100 registered households.
During his three years as pastor, Barrett held several diocesan positions, as well as being the President of John Carroll High School. During his watch, hurricanes Francis and Jeanne battered the Ft. Pierce area in the Fall of 2004. As a result, the back fence was repaired and a new metal roof put on the church and Social Hall. After Fr. Barrett’s departure, Hurricane Wilma tore through Fort Pierce in the Fall of 2005 . Three major hurricanes hitting the area in three years had the cumulative effect of forcing about 350 households to leave the parish. From the beginning of his pastorate, Fr. Barrett had in mind to build a Marian Shrine and to enlarge and renovate the church. In the last month of his pastorate laid the foundations on the former, but was unable to begin the latter.
On July 1, 2005, the fifty-eight year-old Michael J. McNally, raised in South Florida, was assigned as the fourth pastor. Fr. McNally came to the parish with thirty-years academic experience, having taught in three different Catholic seminaries.
In 2005 the parish had 10 baptisms, 27 First Communions, 8 marriages, and 50 funerals, about 1,000 registered households.
It fell to Fr. McNally to complete the construction of the Marian Shrine, which was dedicated on January 1, 2006 and a hundred-year-old marble statue of Mary was installed on December 8, 2006. In the Summer of 2007 the Social Hall interior was reappointed and the kitchen re-supplied. The generous benefactor made possible the re-paving of the parking lot and the landscaping of the property in the Fall of 2007. On November 3, 2007, the first capital campaign in the parish in over thirty years began. The purpose of “We the Parish Campaign ‘08" was to raise $350,000 for the refurbishment of the church interior in the Summer of 2008. Work began on refurbishment on June 2, 2008, meanwhile the parish’s worship space moved to the Social Hall. By the end of the “Campaign ‘08" on July 31, the parish raised over $400,000 for the project, which is to be completed sometime in mid-September.
Throughout most of the parish’s history, religious women served the parish as religious educators and ministers to the elderly and home-bound. In the Fall of 1973, Fr. Dolan invited two Adrian Dominicans to the parish, Srs. John Baptist Dowd and Claire Daniel Watson (Sr. Jane Irene Hutton followed thereafter), who remained until retiring in 1999. They were replaced by two other Adrian’s, Srs. Francis Elizabeth and Mary Jean, both of whom remained until the Summer of 2006, when they transferred to their congregation’s regional headquarters in West Palm Beach.
From the beginning, laity took an active role in parish life. Over 250 people volunteered to assist in various ministries in the parish by 1974. Early parish organizations included the Thrift Shop, which continues today.
Throughout its history the parish maintained a considerable ministry to the elderly. It serves the sick by visiting the 374-bed Lawnwood Hospital, three nursing homes, and the homebound. Today approximately fifty-percent of the registered parishioners are over 66 years. Meanwhile, the youth of the parish are not neglected, with a CCD program, youth altar servers, and a Newman Club begun at Indian River Community College in the Fall of 2007.
Fr. Michael J. McNally, Pastor