• Parish History
  • A Vision for Holy Faith

Parish History

On March 1, 1973, Bishop Paul F. Tanner established Holy Faith as a parish of Gainesville and assigned Father Flannan Walsh as first Pastor. From 1972 to 1976, Mass was celebrated at the Gainesville Women’s Club, while Father Walsh eventually settled on property for our parish campus in 1975.

Our parish is named after a Church mission in the Gainesville area established by Franciscan missionaries in the 17th century: Santa Fe de Toloco. There were 16 such Spanish missions in Florida prior to 1702, which gathered the native population to live together, around central churches, with mostly Franciscan priests evangelizing and living with the Indians. The prevalence of the name Santa Fe in our area (including the river by the same name) is due to this mission of long ago.

Our parish was given the English version of the title Santa Fe, i.e. Holy Faith.  Because the Santa Fe Spanish mission was served by Franciscans, our parish also has this spiritual bond with St. Francis of Assisi. This is why we have a statue of St. Francis in our church and remember him in the Eucharistic Prayer.

Once Fr. Walsh secured the site for the present day parish campus, the parishioners built the Social parishhistoryHall and Education Building in 1976. The Upper Hall of the Social Hall was used for the  celebration of the Eucharist. There is a story that Fr. Walsh did not want to cut many trees down for the buildings needed, being a lover of nature as many Irish are. A tornado struck and felled a number of trees and some men of the parish came quickly in and cut down some more before Fr. Walsh was the wiser. To this day, Holy Faith is distinctive for the beautiful, park-like beauty of its grounds. The latest contribution of the natural beauty of our campus is a prayer garden (in front of the Ministry Center) given by the family of parishioner Mary Johnson.

The parish came of age on February 28 of 1982 when a new church [the present church building] was dedicated by Bishop John J. Snyder. According to Bishop Snyder, the People of Holy Faith showed an outstanding witness of faith, vitality and vibrancy. Seating close to 700 people, the new Holy Faith church building was shaped in the style of a pagoda, with the ceiling rising to form a Maltese Cross. Tapestries in the church were donated by Barbara Ebersole of Gainesville.

In 1987, Monsignor Joseph James succeeded Father Walsh as Pastor. Fr. Walsh went on to found Queen of Peace Church on the westside of Gainesville. The two parishes of Holy Faith and Queen of Peace share this special bond, among many, of having the same Pastor as their founder.

Father Michael Williams was named Pastor in 1990. Under Fr. Mike’s 12 years of excellent leadership, Holy Faith continued to grow in the number of parishioners and many ministries began to be developed. The Pastoral Staff was expanded. The grounds were improved. In the year 2001, Father Williams completed the construction of the new Ministry Center which is home to the parish Ministry Offices, Library and Nursery.ministrycenter

In 2002, our present Pastor, Fr. John M. Phillips, was appointed to serve Holy Faith as her fourth Pastor. Fr. John had been a student at the University of Florida and entered the Seminary the year that the 1982 Church Building was dedicated.

Fr. John has continued to maintain the excellent services of the Pastoral Staff, recruiting many fine professional ministers to serve with our parishioners. Further development of parish ministries and services at Holy Faith has flourished.  Fr. John, who did further studies in Liturgy (the public worship by the Church) at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, has also encouraged the beauty and reverence of the Liturgical celebrations at Holy Faith.

The parish has grown to over 2000 families and has 65+ ministries. Fr. John, with the endorsement of the Parish Council and Finance Council, negotiated to buy several acres of wooded property owned by the Diocese next to our parish campus.

At Fr. John’s recommendation in 2003, the parish entered into a Sister relationship with a poor parish on the outskirts of Guatemala City, Guatemala: the parish of Jesús Nipalakin (pronounced Hey-suz  Knee-paula-keen; the second word is Mayan, and it means [Jesus] walking among us). Holy Faith parishioners especially sponsor children and teachers in the Sister Parish school.

Holy Faith adopted the Catholic Worker House of Gainesville in October 2004, which served to provide hospitality between the city’s poor and parishes like Holy Faith for over ten years (recently closed). The parish also helps support the Comboni Sisters, missionaries first to Africa and now world-wide. With these efforts and many more, our parishioners reach out to one another and beyond our borders, locally and internationally.

Our particular parish mission is to build together a community of compassion in Christ. Over the years, as the city of Gainesville has grown, Holy Faith now is near the epicenter of Gainesville, in the heart of Gainesville. The parishioners of Holy Faith seek to have the Heart of Jesus for Gainesville, and beyond. This explains the presence of the statue of the Sacred Heart in front of the church building, his arms extended in welcome.

With the recommendation of an appointed committee and the Parish Council, the parish finished 3 years of a parish renewal program called Renew for the 21st Century in 2009. In Lent 2010, we began Why Catholic, also a parish renewal program based upon study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by small groups of parishioners (300+ participants). The small group experience helps parishioners to know one another and support each other in the Catholic Spiritual Journey.

Holy Faith celebrated the 40th anniversary year of our parish in 2013 and realizing that we holy-faith_campaign-logo_finalhad outgrown our 1976 Upper Hall and the Religious Education buildings long before then, and that these buildings were aging, we began a Capital Campaign. The campaign’s motto  sums up who we are as a parish: “Holy Faith Building Faith.” This is why every building was built and why we do all our religious education programs, our worship and sacramental celebrations, our services of various kinds, and our building of community: It is  to build the Faith of those at Holy Faith so that we can in turn serve the compassionate Christ, helping others to come to the same Faith.

We thank our very generous church community for their commitment to this campaign and on September 25, 2016, we were proud to celebrate together with our Bishop, Felipe Estévez, the dedication of our newly built ‘Parish Life Center’ knowing that it will serve the community for the next 40 years and more.

Holy Faith Parish Life Center
Holy Faith Parish Life Center

See a few of our pictures from the Dedication with Bishop Felipe Estévez:

Parish Life Center Dedication – September 25, 2016

All that Holy Faith has achieved during its short history is because of the gracious Blessings of God and the generosity of our parishioners in time, talent, financial support, and enthusiasm to serve others in the Heart of Christ.

A Vision of Spiritual Renewal for Holy Faith

By Fr. John, Pastor

FrJohn-Blessed SacramentFor Christians there is only one kind of spiritual renewal or spirituality, though it can take many expressions. When Christians speak of spiritual we are referring to the work of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus calls the Helper (see John 14:15-17; the Greek word used here means helper) The Holy Spirit helps us to know, love, and serve Christ as beloved sons and daughters of God. (Also see Romans 8:16-17)

For Jesus, his identity as the Beloved Son of God by his divine nature was revealed at his Baptism, when the Holy Spirit came to help him in a special way and God the Father declared Jesus to be his Beloved Son in whom he is well-pleased. (See Matthew 3:13-17) At our Baptism we also received the Holy Spirit and were made the adopted and beloved sons and daughters of God, united to Christ and to his Body the Church.

Any authentic spiritual renewal in our parish must be inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit and its foundation is based in our Baptism. While we are only baptized once, the grace of our Baptism is ongoing; I like to say, playing on the original meaning of Baptism as immersion, that at our Baptism we were enrolled in a life-long Aimmersion course in the life of Christ.

Practically speaking, the spiritual renewal of our parish, indeed of any parish, will involve what I have called the Five W’s (as a way of remembering five essential dynamics of Christian and Catholic life):

  1. We seek to live in the Welcome of Christ.  Jesus’s mission is to welcome and gather all into the family and kingdom of God.  All the ways we welcome others and build community together, supporting and encouraging one another in the life of Christ, achieve this mission.  The Why Catholic small groups help with this, for example.
  2. We seek to Witness to Christ.  Our parish must point to Christ, know him, focus upon the teachings of Christ given to us in the Catholic Church, and share with others the good news about becoming members of God’s family in the Church, the Body of Christ.
  3. We seek to Worship with Christ in the reverent and worthy celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments of the Catholic Church.  Especially important to each believer’s spiritual strengthening is the Sunday Mass when all the family of God gathers to be renewed in the Spirit and we offer ourselves with Christ to love one another.
  4. We seek to Walk in the Spirit.  By this I mean all those activities we usually associate with spirituality under the Spirit’s instruction and help: we pray daily; read the Scriptures and other spiritual reading; contemplate the lives of the saints, especially of Mary the Mother of God; and we discover other ways our hearts are lifted up to God.  Here, also, we seek to repent of any sin in our lives, since sin quenches the Holy Spirit within us (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).
  5. Finally, we seek to do the Work of Christ.  Spiritual renewal isn’t just for our own self-satisfaction and consolation. God blesses us so that we may share that blessing. Christ’s mandate (commandment and mission) is to love one another as he sacrificially loved us (see John 15:12-13).  Such love, poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us (see Romans 5:5), will make us into helpers, just as the Spirit is the Helper. We will bring others to Christ. We will be a parish that truly lives in Christ’s compassion.