History of St. Margaret Mary

Celebrating 75 Years

Timeline  |  Ornament  |  May Rosary  |  Novena to the Sacred Heart  |  August Service Project (coming soon)


As we celebrate 75 years officially becoming a parish, let us look back on the history of our parish, starting at the very beginning....

Moments in the History of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church

1886

In the Beginning

In the Beginning

For many years Catholic residents of Winter Park attended Mass in Orlando, which was served by a resident mission priest, Father Felix Swembergh. They continued to attend there after St. James’ first church was built in 1887.

1900

First Mass

The first Mass celebrated in Winter Park was in the “Crane Cottage,” the winter residence of John H. LaMontaigne, a Rollins College professor. Priests from St. James continued to offer the Mass.

1921

Land was Purchased

To accommodate the increasing number of people coming to Winter Park plans for a mission church of St. James began in 1921 to be named St. Margaret Mary after St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Land was purchased by the Diocese of St. Augustine on the corner of Knowles and Canton Avenues. Through the generosity of Miss Victorine Reynaert and others, funds were gathered for a church building.  Miss Victorine made her donation in memory of her uncle, Father John H. Reynaert, a retired priest from Belgium living in the area.

1924

Blessing the Foundation Stone

Blessing the Foundation Stone

The ceremony of blessing and laying the foundation stone was held on October 17th, 1924, the Feast of St. Margaret Mary. The Spanish style building was completed in December 1924. The first Mass was celebrated December 28 with a formal opening on March 15, 1925.

1927

Blessing of the Church

Blessing of the Church

The church was officially blessed and dedicated January 30, 1927, by Bishop Patrick Barry.

1947

Established as a Parish

The mission of St. Margaret Mary was canonically established as a parish on November 5, 1947.

Father Daniel C. Hegarty

Father Daniel C. Hegarty

Father Daniel C. Hegarty was appointed the first Pastor of the new parish.  “To Winter Park, Father Hegarty brings much experience in the Florida parishes, and an affable and fatherly personality guaranteed to endear him at once to the parishioners of whom he is the first Pastor.”

1948

Church Fire

The church was severely damaged by a fire on February 3, 1948 (the Feast of St. Blaise) and was closed for several months. It was officially reopened in a ceremony presided over by Auxiliary Bishop of St. Augustine, Bishop Thomas McDonough on January 9, 1949.

1953

New Addition

Due to the growing congregation a new wing was added to the church giving it an “L” shape. The Bruton house at 526 North Park Avenue was purchased for a convent which decades later became the priests’ rectory.

1954

A School is Formed

A School is Formed

Houses on the block of Park, Canton, Knowles, and Swoop Avenues were purchased to build a school. Until it was built classes were held in the new “L” shaped church wing and some of the purchased homes. 262 children made up the initial enrollment. The Sisters of Christian Charity of Mendham, NJ arrived to teach at the school.

1957

Father Raymond Amiro

Father Raymond Amiro

Father Raymond M. Amiro becomes pastor.

1958

Father John Lawlor

Father John Lawlor

Father John P. Lawlor becomes pastor.

1960

New School Building

New School Building

The new school was dedicated by Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley on March 25.

1961

Fr. John F. Wells

Fr. John F. Wells

Father (later Monsignor) John F. Wells becomes pastor.

1962

Convent is Established

The house at 500 Knowles Avenue was purchased for use as a convent for the Sisters.

1968

Construction on a New Church Began

Construction on a New Church Began

In February a building fund campaign was launched to construct a new church building.  In June the Diocese of Orlando was created out of the Diocese of St. Augustine, with Bishop William D. Borders as the first bishop. In December groundbreaking ceremonies were held and construction began for a new church. The exterior was constructed from Miami Stone while the interior used imported Carrara marble from Italy.

1969

New Church Dedicated

New Church Dedicated

The last service in the original church was held in October 1969 and on November 2, 1969, the new church was dedicated by Bishop William D. Borders.

1970

Original Church Demolished

Original Church Demolished

The original church building was demolished to accommodate parking for parishioners. Plans for a parish hall were begun in June 1970 with construction beginning in 1971.

1972

Neighborhood Apostolate Established

In February Msgr. Wells commissioned leaders in a Neighborhood Apostolate tailored to the goals of the parish: to coordinate needs of parishioners, form communities of concerned and prayerful Christian people, foster spiritual growth through prayer meetings and discussion groups, to be ecumenical.

Fr. John Bluett

Fr. John Bluett

Father John Bluett becomes pastor in June.

1975

Helping Vietnam Refugees

Helping Vietnam Refugees

St. Margaret Mary responded to the call of Catholic Social Services for helping refugees from Vietnam to resettle to central Florida. "The offer of sponsorship from St. Margaret Mary Parish in Winter Park was one of the first four offers of sponsorship <we received.>”

1983

New Chapel

New Chapel

A chapel was built and blessed on October 16 by Bishop Thomas J. Grady. Jack Timmes was ordained as a Permanent Deacon to serve at the parish.

Thanksgiving and Christmas Stores Established

Sister Pat O’Malley and Ruth Bliss spearhead the establishment of a Thanksgiving/Christmas store to assist families with dignity and respect.

1985

Fr. Richard Walsh

Fr. Richard Walsh

Father Richard Walsh becomes pastor on August 20.

1989

Renovations to the School

Renovations to the School

Renovations were made to the school to include a media center, library, computer classroom and administrative offices.

Korean Catholic Mass

Korean Catholics began holding their Masses at St. Margaret Mary. This continued until their mission church, St. Ignatius Kim, was built in 1992.

1992

Habitat for Humanity

St. Margaret Mary built its first Habitat for Humanity home for the Eugene and Cheryl Farley family, the beginning of many years of involvement.

Interfaith Caravan

Interfaith Caravan

The parish participates in activities associated with the Orlando chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews; Bishop Norbert Dorsey is the chapter president. The “Interfaith Caravan” visited the church to learn about the Catholic faith.

1996

More School Renovations

Renovations were made to the Parish Hall to add a new upper-level addition for classrooms to accommodate the school’s 120 seventh and eighth grade students.

1997

Major Church Renovations

Major Church Renovations

Major Interior renovations were made to the church building including new carpet, changes to the choir area, refinishing the pews and adding two wheel chair accessible sections, installation of a new baptismal font near the narthex, establishing the Chapel of Reservation in the sanctuary, repainting, adding new lighting, and a new acoustical sound system.

2000

Scripture Study Classes

Scripture Study Classes

Scripture study classes begin with Father Walsh facilitating studies for men, Sister Rosemary Finnegan facilitating studies for women, and Father Michael Giglio facilitating for a combined group.

2001

New Family Life Center

New Family Life Center

Construction began for a new Family Life Center which was dedicated in October 2002.

Parish Recoognized

The parish is recognized in a national study as “outstanding” for its participative, well-planned liturgies directed by a dedicated team, Scripture classes, lecture series, programs for seniors, and the Family, Friends & Chicken Soup program, which provides meals and rides to those in need. "I suppose it's nice to be recognized, but what we do here is not for recognition," said Father Richard Walsh. “We try to do meaningful work as participants in the hand of God."

National Day of Prayer after 9/11

National Day of Prayer after 9/11

Parishioners attend a special Mass for the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for those who died on September 11. "We are asking the Lord to raise us up during this dark hour," said Father Walsh.

2006

Haiti Ministry Established

Haiti Ministry Established

The parish begins a Haitian Ministry involving staff, parishioners and the parish school.  A three year school renovation project, “Building Our Future,” begins. This ministry grew into much more, including building multiple Churches and dozens of Chapelle's all over the Island of Haiti.

2007

DVD Real Presence Produced

As part of the Year of Evangelization the parish produced a DVD titled “Real Presence,” featuring interviews with parishioners about their ministries in the church showing how they represent the real presence of Jesus Christ in the world.

2010

Fr. Walsh Named Diocesan Administrator

Fr. Walsh Named Diocesan Administrator

In June Father Walsh was named Diocesan Administrator serving until John Noonan, appointed in November by Pope Benedict XVI as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Orlando was installed on December 16.

2015

Narthex Added

Narthex Added

Renovations were made to the church which included a new bell tower with a bell cast in France, and enlargement of the narthex with the addition of a rose window. Bishop John Noonan blessed the bell on October 18, and it was installed on October 22.

2018

Fr. Walsh Celebrates 50 Years as a priest

Fr. Walsh Celebrates 50 Years as a priest

On April 15th, 2019 Fr. Walsh celebrates 50 years in the priesthood!

2019

Fr. Walsh named Monsignor

Fr. Walsh named Monsignor

Bishop Noonan told us: "The Supreme Pontiff Francis enrolls Reverend Richard Marian Walsh of the Diocese of Orlando as Chaplain of His Holiness given at Vatican on June 28 during the Year of our Lord 2019." This letter states that Fr. Walsh is now a Monsignor!