Historian Susan Parker Featured Speaker for Augustinian Day

By Margo C. Pope

The August 28 feast day celebration of St. Augustine of Hippo, patron saint of the city, the Cathedral Basilica, and the Diocese of St. Augustine, will pay tribute to the establishment of the diocese 150 years ago.

Historian Susan R. Parker, Ph.D., will deliver the Augustinian Address titled “St. Augustine in 1870 when the new diocese was created.” Pope Pius IX created Florida’s first diocese on March 11, 1870. Its first bishop, Augustin Verot, previously bishop of the Diocese of Savannah, was installed in the Cathedral on Oct. 23, 1870.

Solemn vespers, in honor of the feast, will begin at 6 p.m. in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, led by Bishop Felipe Estévez of St. Augustine. He invited Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to give the homily at vespers. The title of his homily is “Our full stature in Christ.” He was appointed Hierarchal Proistamenos of the St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine in St. Augustine in 2019.

“Jesus Christ wished his disciples to be united,” Estévez said. “Since Vatican II, the Catholic and the Orthodox churches are in an ongoing dialogue seeking full reconciliation. Bishop Demetrios and I are seeking ways to draw our communities closer together.”

Demetrios said he is “truly honored to be invited to offer this homily. This is the second part of our joint celebration of the feast of St. Augustine.” The two bishops spoke during a national webinar on June 15, the Greek Orthodox observance of St. Augustine’s feast.

Parker’s address follows at 7 p.m. in the Cathedral. Father Tom Willis, the rector, invited Parker to speak. “I am looking forward to hearing what she has to say about the city, the people and how the press reported the events (in 1870),” he said.

“It is important to remember the city in 1870 was only five years away from the Civil War being over,” Parker said in an interview. “St. Augustine and most southern cities were still trying to make a comeback. It is a very different picture of St. Augustine than the late 1800s when (Henry) Flagler arrives.”

Parker holds a doctorate in colonial history from the University of Florida. She was editor of The Oldest City: History of St. Augustine, published in 2019 by the St. Augustine Historical Society. She is historian for the St. Johns County Clerk of the Court and a former executive director of the St. Augustine Historical Society. Her weekly column, “Oldest City,” is published in The St. Augustine Record.

The Augustinian Address speaker series was inaugurated in 2000.

Vespers and the Augustinian Address are open to the public, free of charge. Seating is limited in the Cathedral because of social distance requirements. Attendees are required to wear masks. The evening’s events will be live-streamed August 28 on the Cathedral Basilica’s Facebook page beginning at 6 p.m.