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  • Pompeii Rising

From the Desk of Fr. Thomas - June 2024 Newsletter

Dear Faithful,

If the walls of Our Lady of Pompeii could talk. I’ve had the privilege of being alone in the church, taking it all in with wonder and admiration. Listening in silence. I envision what parish life would’ve looked like between 1924-1964, the years in which the old church was home to the congregation in Springfield. I think about the first Mass offered, and the last Mass. Every historical site recognized by the State of Florida has a master file archived in Tallahassee which justifies a property’s significance and architectural value. Through our friends at SPAR, we obtained a facsimile of the 50th Anniversary Booklet for 2039 N. Laura Street; a fascinating story which I encourage you to read. The Dominicans say you can’t love what you don’t know, and the more we learn about our new church, the more we can pour our hearts into the restoration. The riveting story is bittersweet in hindsight, and apropos to our plight. This memoir covering four decades helps me understand where this church has been, and where it needs to go.

I’ve tasked Lane Architecture to survey every square inch of the church with the goal of not just recreating, but improving the property, sanctuary, and nave to serve modern families. From reading the narrative and examining the original blueprints it is clear that in years past, parishioners of Old Holy Rosary were both local and pedestrian - not needing the same amenities required today. Our architects are listening, too, and feedback reverted each week reflects that. I imagine the first pastor, Fr. Denis Lyons, and original architect, James Walsh, collaborating late into the nights of 1922. How many times did they go back to the drawing board? What did Father’s superiors think? How many people said it would never happen?  Who had the special devotion to Our Lady of Pompeii? We see our ‘yes’ today can affect tomorrow. These are not just sentimental words, but living truths. For instance, a picture from 1952 was shared with me of dozens of acolytes surrounding Fr. Michael Barry. The graces won over 70 years ago by a 12 year old altar boy who said “I will serve” would one day help his future son find St. Michael’s and live a sacramental life. This is the Catholic spirit, and God willing, the legacy of those who came before us will live on through us. These types of examples are very important to preserve, so if you have a personal connection to Old Holy Rosary or Our Lady of Pompeii, please share it with us.

I’ll conclude this month’s newsletter with June’s progress. Here are some of the results from the recent architectural survey and the schematics for the altar installation. There will be more to share in July, but these renderings will help introduce Phase III concepts as we hash out the best plan of attack. We pray and give thanks for another productive month. As mentioned from the pulpit, I’ve been mandated to remain the head of Pompeii Rising for what appears to be the duration of the project, so from that perspective, nothing changes. However, I have received a reassignment to watch over the school in Sanford, meaning Jacksonville will have a new chaplain to minister to the needs of the Faithful starting August 15th. For those I’ve gotten to know the last two years, this is an opportunity to trust the Lord God’s Providence. I’ll still find excuses to come to Jacksonville, especially for site visits, but as St. John the Baptist reminds us, He must increase and I must decrease. We place our worries, desires, anxieties in the Sacred Heart as if It were a tabernacle. If Our Lady of Pompeii is to be a House of God and Gate of Heaven, then we move forward in the footsteps of the Pontifical Shrine in Italy knowing this will be both a physical and spiritual renewal. Keep saying your daily Memorares!

In the Sacred Heart,

Fr. David Thomas.

P.S. This is the photo shared with me by our parishioner Joe, who’s father David (circled) served Mass at Old Holy Rosary. You’ll notice this picture was featured in the 50th Anniversary Article. As you can see, the original sanctuary was rather modest and we look forward to adorning the church with our new Romanesque High Altar.

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