In 1847, the first bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Bishop Verot, in his zeal to spread the truth, established a mission in Middleburg, Florida. The early Catholics of Middleburg had to travel to participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Most attended in Orange Park or Green Cove Springs.
In 1973, the Pastor of Sacred Heart in Green Cove Springs, Father Luke McLoughlin, began presiding over services for the members in Middleburg.
The parish began with only 13 families and Masses were held at Middleburg Elementary, the Civic Center, and even in their homes. The hardship of founding a parish increased their desire to five their parish a church, where Jesus could always be found.
Around this time, the late Bishop Tanner acquired 25 acres on Blanding Boulevard, to eventually be used for a new parish. In the mid nineteen seventies, an Orange Park physician, Dr. Padmanabhan, donated a building she purchased from First Baptist of Orange Park. The building was transported to Middleburg. Father Luke and fellow members of the church renovated what came to be known as "the little white church on the prairie." Finally, Jesus had a home in Middleburg.
The Little White Church
The first Mass was held Christmas Eve, 1976. For the first five years, the small and loving families of St. Luke's all had their same seats for every Mass. It was a natural happening as it was such a small group. There was a warm feeling of family and belonging that held special memories for the families of this small mission.
In just four years the mission had grown to 170 families. Finally, the dream of a few became a reality when the mission of St. Luke's was canonically established as a Parish under the spiritual direction of Father Edward Rooney in July of 1982.
Father Rooney led the parish to new heights as he guided the establishment of new ministries. By 1986, the 300 + families were in need of a bigger home to share in Our Lord's Mass. So, in March 1986 the little white church went back to its roots and is now the sanctuary of Brannan Field Baptist Church.
The Mission Church
On Mother's Day May 11, 1986, Bishop John Snyder blessed the new church. The Parish community had outgrown the little white church and moved into the 10,00 square foot center that would now serve their growing Catholic family. The beautiful new church served the faithful well for the next 16 years. The growing love and commitment of the St. Luke's family pushed the "mission church" to new heights.
St. Luke's Church today
Through the support of at the time was around one thousand church families, construction of a new, larger church began in 2000. The new church was officially dedicated on November 17, 2002 by Bishop Galeone. The mission church became the Parish Center for meetings and events. The beautiful new church stands as a testament to perseverance and the ever growing zeal for out faith. Twenty five years later, what started as a Catholic mission of 13 families, has now grown to a parish of over 2000 thousand families.
-Courtesy of Michaela Lecas
St. Luke's Catholic Church | 1606 Blanding Blvd. Middleburg, FL 32068-4092 | (904) 282-0439