History of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church
St. Teresa as a Mission
In 1880, Father John F. O’Boyle, who came to the USA from Donegal County, Ireland, was active in the evangelization of about 100 Catholic railroad workers in the vicinity of Fernandina, Florida. It was there that he heard rumors that Mr. Flagler, the railroad baron, intended to develop areas further south, including the Cape and vicinity. Father arrived in Titusville in 1886.
In 1892 the wooden frame structure dedicated to Saint Teresa of Avila stood at the corner of Hopkins and Orange Avenue in downtown Titusville. One day, after saying the neighborhood Mass in Daytona, Father O’Boyle came back to Titusville on foot after someone “borrowed” his boat!
In December, 1895, the Great Fire wiped out most of downtown Titusville, but fortunately, St. Teresa’s Chapel was left untouched by the flames. A year before, the Great Freeze cancelled most of the commercial life of the area. The Flagler Railroad began to look for areas other than Titusville to develop. It took those unfortunate events to make the first resident priest leave Titusville. St. Teresa’s at that time began 60 years of gradual transition from missionary headquarters to parochial church.
In 1895, Father O’Boyle was transferred to Daytona, where he stayed until his death in 1927. Father Boreslaw Radka became the second resident priest of Titusville in 1921. At this time St. Teresa’s was a mission church of St. Mary’s in Rockledge. Between 1895 and 1921, priests from DeLand and other parishes of the Diocese of St. Augustine took care of the spiritual needs of St. Teresa’s Chapel. Father Radka built a Parsonage in 1926, where transient missionaries could find rest. Later, during the years of the Second World War, this building served as Titusville’s first hospital with the participation of other Christian denominations in town.
Father Radka tended to several neighboring Catholic communities and traveled as far north as Korona, near Daytona, to say Mass in Polish on Sundays, after the 8:00 A.M. Mass in Titusville. He was very faithful to the last calls of the East Coast Missions despite his frail constitution. Father Radka went to his eternal reward 12 years after arriving in Titusville. He was buried in Rockledge by his successor, Father Daniel Hegarty.
Father Hegarty built the second Church in 1937 to replace the first one, which had been transferred by Father Radka to Hopkins and South Street. Father Reynolds was pastor in 1941. Father Bucko was pastor in 1950. Father Bucko was instrumental in beginning a Holy Name Society. In 1953 Father Cordey was pastor and began the Catholic Women’s Club. Father Spellman was pastor in 1957. At this time the Catholic community consisted of no more than 300 families.
St. Teresa as a Parish
On July 18, 1955, the Diocese of Saint Augustine purchased the Hopkins and Ojibway property where the church and school now stand. Archbishop Hurley established St Teresa’s as an independent parish with the appointment of Father John B. O’Hare as pastor on January 5, 1958.
The dedication of the church was on July 3, 1960. The pastor and parishioners were very proud of the 800 capacity worship space (the present Parish Center). Many parishioners were used to standing on the lawn during Mass due to crowded conditions inside the church on South Street.
With the new church the 1,200 parishioners could be seated during the four Masses each weekend. With the advent of the Space Age during 1960-1969, Titusville experienced an unprecedented influx of scientists, engineers, and young professionals all enthused by the challenge of conquering space. The Federal Government earmarked Cape Canaveral as a missile testing ground. St Teresa’s needed to serve the needs of many families with elementary age students. This prompted Father O’Hare to go to Ireland in 1960 to ask for Sisters to serve at St Teresa’s.
In 1961, the arrival of the first Sisters of Mercy of Gort, County Galway, signaled great blessings to the Parish. School activities began immediately with the first 90 pupils. Classes were held in the second chapel which was built by Father O’Hare in the small house which was moved from Playalinda in 1962. The house later became the rectory. Sister Kathleen O’Brien (Sr Aloysuis) came in 1962 and at the present time has served St Teresa’s parish for more than 45 years. In December 1962, the first floor of the school building was completed, and the second floor was completed in 1965. The number of students reached 760. St. Teresa’s employed eight lay teachers and seven Sisters. St. Teresa’s School was at that time the largest elementary school in the Diocese of Orlando.
A concrete block duplex, given by the O’Flanagan family, served as residence for the Sisters until September 1964, when the Convent that once bordered on Ojibway Avenue was completed. Eventually this two story convent was torn down to make room for the Middle School Education Building and the three Sisters of Mercy moved elsewhere.
Just as suddenly as it began, the Space Program changed its focus. The Aerospace Industry relocated many families and brought economic upheaval to the Titusville Area from 1974-1988. Parish and school enrollments declined.
In 1969, Father Michael F. Hanrahan was assigned as pastor to St. Teresa Parish. He was a quiet, unassuming, well-loved priest. His dog, Shalom, was always with him. In the early 80’s Father launched a building campaign to build the present church, which was dedicated on the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, October 15, 1982. This church was capable of seating 950. The Altars, Ambo and Baptismal Font were handcrafted by Jerry Clements.
Father Hanrahan celebrated his 25th anniversary of priesthood in 1984. The Women’s Club was very active and many volunteers assisted at parish activities. Painters, coaches, bingo workers invested many hours to support their parish. The old church was converted to a Parish Center with facilities for student athletic programs for basketball and volleyball. Avila Hall, originally part of the school, was equipped with a kitchen for parish dinners and functions. St. Teresa’s was alive with activities.
In 1989, Father Hanrahan was transferred. Sister Phil Noone and Sister Ita Hennely who had served St.Teresa’s School since 1961 also moved to the parish in Deltona. Father Hanrahan died in February 2004 and is buried in Ireland.
Father John S. Murray came to St. Teresa’s with his great sense of humor and strong sense of purpose in 1989. Father Murray was outstanding as a homilist. He was a compassionate and kind friend. Father was always there for his people. Often he could be found with the children of St Teresa’s school jesting with them and getting extra material for his homilies. Father’s Irish humor attracted young and old alike. Father Murray also celebrated his 25th anniversary of priesthood with us.
In the late 1990’s Father Murray established a 3 year building campaign to fund a Gymnasium and Education building to house the middle school, library and state of the art labs. These buildings were dedicated on October 15, 2001. Father Murray was transferred to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, New Smyrna Beach in 2004, where his still serves as Pastor.
In 2004, Father Michael E. Giglio became pastor of St. Teresa’s. Father brought with him the energy and enthusiasm to empower St. Teresa’s parishioners to participate in parish life. Father continues to provide excellent homilies for us to understand the heart of the Scriptures. With his background in education, Father often presents Scripture or theological evening sessions for adults. The celebration of our Sunday Liturgies is an important focus when everyone is encouraged to fully participate. Father began the Finance Council, the Building Committee and the Pastoral Council in which parishioners with professional expertise are invited to participate in decision making. Father Michael has a real heart for the school: the children, teachers and parents. His compassion also reaches out to the sick and the homebound. He initiated Masses at the area assisted living facilities and has augmented our Ministry to the Sick.
Father Michael was transferred, effective January 2, 2009 to a parish in Port Orange, Florida, about 60 miles north of here. Our associate, Fr. Roy Eco, will be leaving, also. The bishop is putting our parish into the hands of the Salvatorian Community. As of January 2, 2009, our new pastor is Reverend Krzysztof Bugno, known as Fr. Chris. He is coming from Sacred Heart Church in Rockne, Texas. Fr. Chris is a Salvatorian priest from Poland. Our Associate priest, Fr. Eugene Grytner, is also a Salvatorian priest from Poland. He arrived on June 2, 2009 after being a missionary in Africa for almost 30 years from the time he was Ordained.
Father Chris has initiated new ventures here at St. Teresa's: an annual Ethnic Mass complete with nationality flags and Ethnic Food Celebration each year on the 4th Sunday of Lent to celebrate ethnicity and diversity, an annual Parish Picnic with games for the children, dunking booth, picnic food and fun for all. He brought a special devotion to the Divine Mercy and was able to have the Divine Mercy image painting created by an artist in Poland enthroned in the Church. The Divine Mercy novena, Fatima Sundays, Blessed Mother Devotion in May and the Sacred Heart Devotion in June were also introduced to the Parish. From his initiative we began the project of a Parish Directory or Yearbook. Fr. Chris celebrated his 25th Jubilee with us on May 16, 2010.
During these 55 years as a parish we thank God for our many blessings. We gratefully pray that we may continue with the guidance of the Holy Spirit to form a community of faith, to celebrate the sacraments and proclaim the Good News of God’s love through our lives of service and prayer.