Growing a Ministry at Sacred Heart Church in Tampa

Andrew Reitz Around the Province

TAMPA, Fla. — On July 15, Sacred Heart Church here celebrated its second year of Franciscan ministry to the people of Tampa. It was a good opportunity to look back and review the initial years after taking over this former Jesuit ministry.

Not only did the parish grow, so did the city of Tampa. New condominiums were built, plans for a new art museum finalized, the River Walk project moved ahead, the transportation system was extended, and much more. At Sacred Heart, the pastoral plan created by the pastoral council began to take root. Newly formed committees progressed to accomplish goals and objectives.

We were fortunate to have a friar in formation, Stephen Mimnaugh, during the summer of 2006, and a friar for his internship year in 2006-07, Julian Jagudilla.

The church also began to show its Franciscan influence with the arrival of a St. Francis statue to replace the St. Aloysius Gonzaga statue that was moved to Jesuit High School. An icon of St. Clare also graces the altar of St. Francis.

A Pilgrimage to Assisi, Rome
This spring, I led a group of 18 parishioners on a pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome. We traveled to Assisi, where we stayed for six days and visited the shrines important to our Franciscan history. Then we went to Rome for three days to complete our pilgrimage.

The parishioners on this pilgrimage knew little about our Franciscan history and were eager to know about Franciscan spirituality. All of our visits to the shrines were moving experiences for these traveling novices. The relationships that were formed on this trip still exist.

Since we have the University of Tampa located near us, we helped the students form a Catholic Student Organization. They attend Sunday Mass together, have formed a schola, and share a dinner once a month at parish hall.

We are also fortunate to have a young adults group that keeps growing in numbers. In addition to social events, they meet for meals and discussion, assist with parish work projects, and share the faith. To celebrate their first anniversary in June, we hosted a roof party on the friary.

Meeting the Challenge of Homelessness
One challenge that we face every day is homeless. We started allowing several homeless people to sleep on the church steps after they were forbidden to gather on public property. The number of visitors grew quickly at this safe place to sleep.

To further help the homeless, we are working with our justice and peace committee, the Hillsborough Coalition for the Homeless, and other groups to make action plans. On any evening, we now have 50 to 60 men and women sleeping on the steps and sidewalk next to the church.

As our third year in Tampa is already underway, we are using ideas that were discussed at the Province’s spring fraternal gatherings and the Chapter of Mats. We are working more closely with the Allegany Franciscan Sisters at the Franciscan Center and looking to involve our young adults.

As downtown Tampa continues to grow, Sacred Heart Church is taking a significant role in the community.

— Fr. Andrew, an Allegany, N.Y., native, is pastor and guardian of Sacred Heart Church in Tampa, Fla.