A Brighter Star of the Sea Shines in Ponte Vedra

By Mark Udry

Bishop Estévez splashes holy water on the newly restored church interior. (photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Fran Ruchalski)

The skies that day in Ponte Vedra Beach were gray and overcast, with the threat of torrential rain. But even the weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of those gathered at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish that dreary afternoon to celebrate a shining achievement. The culmination of years of planning, building and restoration of the parish came to fruition with Bishop Felipe Estévez blessing the church renovations at a Mass on Sunday, Feb. 14.

That the date of that particular Sunday – Valentine’s Day – was chosen for the celebration was not lost on the congregation of more than 300 in attendance. It was a communal labor of love – of the parish, of those who worship there, and a strong love of God.

Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish was established in 1972 on 12 acres of sand, sawgrass and palm trees. The church was completed in 1974, and more than 70 families from the rapidly growing beaches community formed the parish. As the decade drew to a close, a rectory, recreation center, and education building were added. In the 1990s, a cultural center and Palmer Catholic Academy, along with an expansion of the church, were built to accommodate its 2,300 families.

Calling it a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” Msgr. Keith Brennan, the parish’s pastor, and a select group of parishioners made plans to refurbish and renovate the church and the campus, launching a capital campaign that resulted in more than 900 families contributing to the restoration project.

Bishop celebrates Mass along with other clergy of the Diocese of St. Augustine. (photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Fran Ruchalski)

“We know that God does not need a building, but that we, the people of God, are in need of a sacred place to give him worship and praise,” said Msgr. Brennan. “The rejuvenation of our church will continue the ongoing development of our ministries and parish life.”

Bishop Estévez led the services, including the blessing of the altar with chrism and the congregation with holy water.

“The existence of a parish gives people a sense that God cares for them and that they, in turn, care for their parish,” Bishop Estévez said. “The community of faith worshipping the Lord is what matters the most, yet the house of the Lord makes a difference when the place raises our hearts to praise in awe and wonder.”