St. Thomas the Apostle Mission was purchased as a 12 acre parcel of land that would house a 400—500 seat building. St. Thomas was founded as a mission of St. Benedict's Catholic Church in Crystal River, Florida, by the Benedictines of St. Leo Abbey.
Rev. James Hoge, O.S.B, spearheaded the cooperative spirit of those in the area of the mission in erecting a multi-purpose building. During the continued growth of the mission, Fr. Hoge served as pastor. The multi-purpose building would serve as church and meeting hall for the mission in its primary stages for a rapidly growing area, and it became the fifth Catholic Church in Citrus County. Approximate cost of the construction was $360,000. Besides the multi-purpose building, St. Thomas the Apostle Church also has a separate chapel and office facility.
Below is a timeline of milestone events in the development of St. Thomas the Apostle Church:
March 17, 1985: Groundbreaking for St. Thomas the Apostle Mission, led by Rev. James Hoge, O.S.B., pastor of St. Benedict Parish. Also in attendance were Rev. John Neff, dean of the Northern Deanery and pastor of St. Vincent de Paul in Holiday; Msgr. George Cummings, St. Elizabeth Seton in Citrus Springs; Fr. John Murphy, St. Anthony in Brooksville. The special guests were Abbot Fidelis Dunlap, O.S. B., of St. Leo Abbey, and Rev. Roger Shively from Crystal River Methodist Church.
Christmas Day 1985: The first Mass for the new Mission of St. Thomas the Apostle was celebrated by Rev. James Hoge, O.S.B.
January 16, 1986: The dedication of St. Thomas was held at 2:00 p.m. and was dedicated by Bishop W. Thomas Larkin, Bishop of St. Petersburg. During the blessing of the new building and the sprinkling of holy water on the walls and congregation, Bishop Larkin prayed for “all here today and all those in days to come who will celebrate the sacred mysteries in this church”. Bishop Larkin told the congregation that the mission of the Church today remains the same as it has for two millennia, to reconcile men to God. “We must bring the teachings of Christ into the mainstreams of our lives”, he said. “According to our first president, George Washington, morality cannot be maintained without religion.” Carrying out the mission of the Church to preach and provide the sacraments is the reason “why we have pulpits, baptismal fonts, altars and confessionals in our churches”, he told the people. Following Mass, Rev. Hoge recognized people instrumental in establishing the new mission. He introduced Ann and Neil McCallum, widow and son of St. Thomas architect, Robert McCallum, who had died recently. Fr. Hoge also thanked J.A.W. Davis, engineer, Randy Caldwell, general contractor, and Thomas Hennessy, diocesan consultant. Fr. Hoge extended thanks to his brother priests who supported his new venture, and all the parish pioneers, founders, and builders who assisted in bringing the dream to reality.
May 3, 1987: By Canonical decree, St. Thomas the Apostle became a parish, and Rev. Martin Obert was assigned as pastor.
During Fr. Obert's tenure, an anonymous donor gave a grotto to St. Thomas parish. Originally, Fr. Martin had the grotto placed in front of the office, but was persuaded to relocate it to its present location on the east front side of the church. Two wooden benches were placed in front of the grotto, and were later replaced by the concrete bench that is there today.
Fr. Obert also authored the "St. Thomas Prayer for Life" that is still prayed by our parishioners today after the rosary:
O Father in Heaven, you are the Creator of life. Protect all expectant mothers and the babies they carry in their wombs. We pray that those who suffer from the evils of abortion will be open to your infinite mercy and love. We ask for the conversion of all who fail to respect the gift of human life. Heavenly Father, guide our actions, to help restore in the hearts of all people, respect for the sanctity of each and every innocent being’s life. Father, we ask these things, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Late 1980's: Rev. Hoge approached St. Leo Abbey in East Pasco County, Florida, and requested if Brother Paul Tennis could carve a suitable crucifix to be placed in the sanctuary of St. Thomas. The result of Br. Tennis' efforts is the stunning crucifix in the sanctuary that depicts a resurrected Christ, King of the Universe, vested in a chasuble and wearing a crown. His arms are outstretched as if to welcome and embrace all who worship at the church. On either side of the crucifix, there are two wooden panels on which are carved the consecrated bread and wine and the words of Jesus to the Apostle Thomas, "Blessed are they who have not seen… yet believe." (John 20:29)
The Stations of The Cross in our church were carved and donated by Ray Ferrari.
2010: A reliquary with the first-class relics of the twelve apostles was deposited (imbedded) in the altar. Made of Western red cedar and measuring 3x6x3.5 feet, our present altar was originally built by a parishioner, Charlie Mattingly. It was commissioned by Fr. James Hoge, OSB to be used for the first mass celebrated at St. Thomas Mission on Christmas 1985. The reliquary was a gift from Fr. Ron Marecki’s aunt, the late Sister Louise Marecki, a Felician nun who worked for 20 years at the Vatican.
There is also a relic of the True Cross at the base of the crucifix imbedded during the time when Fr. Ron Marecki was pastor. The reliquary was a gift from his friend, the late Fr. Thomas Dominic Stott, a priest from the Diocese of Charlotte (NC).
August 15, 2013, the Feast of the Assumption: Rev. Ron Marecki dedicated the Meditation Garden in front of ~200 people including the Knights of Columbus St. Thomas Council #15154 and their Color Corps. The garden was made possible through the tireless efforts of the Knights and the generous donations of St. Thomas' parishioners. The garden path is a 325-foot concrete walkway in the shape of a rosary, with embedded icons representing the "Hail Mary" and the "Our Father". Their is an additional walkway to the "Via Dolorosa", a 160-foot walkway with the Stations of the Cross. The centerpiece of the garden is a life-sized statue of of Jesus praying in the garden, designed by local artist and Knight Guy Zins.
May 11, 2014, Mother's Day: Rev. Ron Marecki dedicated the electronic bells that were installed by The Knights of Columbus St. Thomas Council #15154. The music reflects the Church season, enhances our liturgies, and calls the faithful to join in the celebration.
A new roof was installed on the church in two stages in 2017 and 2018. A special collection was held to fund this critical renovation to our church, and we also received an anonymous donation for the remaining balance. We are very grateful to our parishioners for their ongoing generosity!
December 16, 2018: The Most Reverend Gregory L. Parkes, Bishop of St. Petersburg, celebrated with us the 3rd Sunday of Advent Mass at St. Thomas. Our co-celebrants at mass were Rev. J. Glenn Diaz, Rev. Joy Colina, and Deacon Vincent Small. Bishop Parkes was appointed by Pope Francis as the 5th bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg on November 28, 2016. For Bishop Parkes, serving for God’s glory is the guiding principle of his ministry, which is why he chose “To your name give the glory” as his pastoral motto. In honor of his first visit to our church, we planted two Arizona cypress trees in front of our church.
May 2019: Numerous renovations and improvements were made to our church grounds including the rehabilitation of garden and lawn sprinklers, upgrading the flower beds and garden, installation of ADA-compliant doors for our church, and additional handicap parking for parishioners. The generous donations of our parishioners to our Church Development fund made all this possible.
October 2019: We installed two overhead projectors and screens to enhance our liturgies. This initiative was made possible through a special collection held in August 2019 wherein our parishioners donated $4,973.00, the multiple fundraisers that were held by the Knights of Columbus St. Thomas Council #15154 that raised $1,864.00, as well as donations from multiple anonymous donors whose contribution totaled $1,315.00.
January 2020: A statue of The Holy Family was installed on the west side of the altar. The statue was made in Italy and shipped directly to St. Thomas. The statue was donated by parishioner Dolores Mottle in loving memory of her late husband, Ed.
April 2020: Over the course of several months, the outdated kitchen was renovated and transformed into three unique spaces: a veneratin room, a confessional, and a food pantry for the St. Thomas Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. With many thanks to parishioner Emile Allain who worked tirelessly to complete this project!
The Knights of Colombus Council 15154 painted these new areas as well as the nave and sanctuary of the church.
June 2020: Thirteen olive trees were planted on church grounds, all through the plentiful donations of our parishioners.
July 2020: New pews with kneelers were installed in our church by SauderWorship. Many of our parishioners memorialized a pew or otherwise donated funds that covered the full cost of the thirty pews. Additionally, through a generous anonymous donation, a new ambo was also installed.
August 2020: A new altar stone was affixed on the top of our altar. The altar stone was donated by parishioner Charlie Mattingly and blessed by Bishop Gregory Parkes during Fr. J. Glenn Diaz's pastor installation Mass on Sunday, August 9, 2020.
September 2020: A beautiful Divine Mercy image was installed on the west side of the altar, with thanks to an anonymous donor.
With grateful acknowledgment to the following:
Deacon Rick Wells, the chancellor of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and Lisa Mobley for providing us with the documentation on our parish history
The Pastoral Center, Diocese of St. Petersburg, The Florida Catholic, articles written by Anne Smith and Bishop W. Thomas Larkin
The St. Petersburg Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, Catholic Church History 1539-1989 West Coast of Florida, Brandon, FL, 1989, p. 82, St. Thomas the Apostle Mission (1985)
Joseph Marecki, history of the crucifix and wooden panels
The Late Rev. James Hoge, O.S.B.
The Late Rev. Martin Obert
First Resident Pastor
1987 - 1996
The Late Rev. David Banks
1996 - 2006
Rev. Vincent Morton
2006 - 2007
Rev. Ron Marecki
2007 - 2018
Rev. J. Glenn Diaz
2018 - Present