History of St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Community
On June 30, 1990 Bishop John J. Nevins of the Diocese of Venice in Florida, announced the creation of a new parish in Western Cape Coral. That parish was given the name Blessed Katharine Drexel. Fifteen acres of land were purchased south of Trafalgar Middle School for the parish campus. Father Arthur Hannaway was appointed pastor.
The first weekend Masses were celebrated at Trafalgar Middle School on September 1, 1990. Masses that weekend were attended by 430 people. One hundred seventy-five families registered in the parish that week.1st Christmas Mass 1990
The first daily Mass was celebrated in the chapel at Coral Ridge Funeral Home on September 3, 1990 with six parishioners in attendance. The Diocese purchased a home in the Palmetto Pines neighborhood to serve as the rectory. That house was the site of the first office until the second floor of Chiquita Animal Hospital was rented for that purpose. The “Upper Room” was also the location for Holy Day Masses.
Fr. Hannaway was transferred to St. Ann’s Parish in Naples in August 1992.
Fr. Herold Feltman served as interim priest, “The Glue”, during the period that the church was without a pastor.
Colleen Spiro, our parish secretary, has been secretary from the founding of the church and helped keep the dream of our parish community alive.
The Augustinian Community from Philadelphia answered the Bishop’s call for a priest to lead the community as pastor. Fr. John Deary, O.S.A. was selected to be the new pastor. He arrived in Cape Coral on August 1, 1993.
On July 8, 1995, the first Mass was celebrated in the new hall. Shortly after this, Fr. John announced that Fr. Tom Pohto, O.S.A., had been appointed parochial vicar. Fr. Tom arrived August 25, 1995. Fr. Tom left us on June 1, 1997 to begin his new ministry as pastor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal on Pine Island.
Our subsequent parochial vicars were: Fr. John Sheridan, O.S.A.; Fr. Jim Wenzel, O.S.A.; and Fr. Frank Gallogly, O.S.A.
With the opening of the church hall, the office was moved to a trailer on the property.
However, on April 12, 1999, the new permanent parish office was completed. In late September 2000, approximately 150 members and friends of our community flew to Rome for the Canonization of St. Katharine Drexel. The Mass was said in St. Peter’s Square on October 1, 2000.
During the celebration of St. Katharine’s Feast Day in 2003, groundbreaking was held for the church sanctuary. Construction began later that year. The sanctuary was dedicated by Bishop John J. Nevins on November 13, 2004. The building has stained glass windows which depict the life of our patroness, St. Katharine Drexel.
In May of 2009, we began construction of a new Faith Formation Center on the West end of the property, with a ground breaking ceremony with our Faith Formation students, parents and teachers. On the weekend of October 31- November 1, 2009 we held the Dedication of the Faith Formation Center.
Our Faith Formation Program has grown dramatically since our beginning. In 2009 we had over six hundred students participating in seven different sessions running Sunday through Wednesday. In addition, we have several adult formation programs, such as Bible Study, offered three different times a week and a weekly R.C.I.A. program for those wishing to be fully initiated into the Catholic Faith Community. We also have several prayer and study groups that foster the spiritual development of their members.
There are a large variety of books categorized in many areas of interest to our Catholic Faith. There is a sign-out sheet in the library and all parishioners are welcome to browse and check out books.
The parish community continues to grow and our parish ministries are very active with new ministries starting every year. We currently have over 2500 families and over 38 active ministries.
On September 1, 2015, we completed our 25th year as a parish community. During the year we had many celebrations to commemorate our 25th year concluding with a dinner dance and a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank Dewane with a reception following.
Due to dwindling numbers of Augustinian Friars, the Augustinians needed to recall Fr. John Deary, O. S. A. to a parish in Philadelphia. On May 31st we sadly said goodbye to our pastor of 23 years. We also feel the loss due to the moving away of Fr. Jack O’Rourke and his sister, Jeanne who were an important part of our parish life. We thank them for their friendship and years of dedicated service to our community.
The Augustinian charism will be greatly missed at St. Katharine’s, but we begin a new chapter in our parish, and look forward to our future as a faith community.