History of St. Margaret Mary

In 1886, Orlando, then in the Diocese of St. Augustine, received its first resident priest and Winter Park became one of his missions.

For many years, Winter Park Catholics attended Mass at St. James Church in Orlando. The first Mass celebrated in Winter Park was in 1900 at Crane Cottage, the winter residence of John H. LaMontague, a Rollins professor. During the winter sessions from 1921 to 1924, Mass was celebrated at the H.W. Barnum home on Knowles Avenue.

In 1924, the Diocese purchased a site for a church at the corner of Knowles and Canton. The cornerstone was laid on October 17th, the feast of Saint Margaret Mary. The first Mass was celebrated in the new church on December 28th, 1924.

The church was dedicated on January 30, 1927 by Bishop Patrick Barry. It remained under the care of pastors from St. James Church until 1947 when Reverend Daniel Hegarty was named the first pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish.

In 1953, a wing was added to the church and a house on Park Avenue was purchased as a convent. In addition to providing increased seating capacity, the new wing housed classes for St. Margaret Mary School when it began in the fall of 1954.

The present school building was built in 1958, under the direction of Father John Lawler and dedicated in 1960 by Archbishop Joseph Hurley.

By 1969, the parish, with over a thousand families, had outgrown the old building and new construction was underway. The new church building was dedicated in November of that year by Bishop William Borders, the first Bishop of the newly established Diocese of Orlando.

The 1970's saw the number of families in the parish more than double. Lay leadership was developed in the form of boards, committees and full-time staff and an office building and rectory were added.

The chapel was built in 1983 and blessed by Bishop Thomas Grady in November of that year.
Father Richard Walsh became pastor in 1985 and, under his guidance, many needed renovations have occurred. The school has received two new wings to house offices, the media center, as well as music, art, and kindergarten rooms. The church has been remodeled and the Parish Hall expanded to provide additional classrooms for pre-school and junior high students. A new Family Life Center was dedicated in October 2002. Today, St. Margaret Mary Parish, with a membership of 3,850 families, continues its commitment to:

"Community, Celebration, Compassion"

Moments in the History of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church


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.


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.


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.


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.


Blessing of the Church

Blessing of the Church

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


The Mission Established

The Mission Established

The mission of St. Margaret Mary was canonically established as a parish on November 5, 1947. On November 14th, 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.”


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.


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.


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.


Father Raymond Amiro

Father Raymond Amiro

Father Raymond M. Amiro becomes pastor.


Father John Lawlor

Father John Lawlor

Father John P. Lawlor becomes pastor.


New School Building

New School Building

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


Fr. John F. Wells

Fr. John F. Wells

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


Convent is Established

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


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.