By Amanda Boston
With more than a decade in the making, St. Stephen Catholic Church dedicated its new building in a formal and symbolic ceremony performed by Bishop Emeritus Robert N. Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. The solemn rite of dedication took place on Thursday, June 29 at 7 p.m., setting apart the church as a place of worship.
The ancient ceremony observed dramatic rituals that included the congregation entering into the darkened church, the sprinkling of Holy Water and the anointing of the altar with oil. In May, the St. Stephen Parish unofficially opened the church’s doors to the community when it hosted the famous Broadway-style musical, The Cross and the Light. Guests in attendance experienced the building’s exceptional architectural design that houses plenty of space with a seating capacity of 1,500 people.
“These are not just buildings but places for the people of God,” said Fr. Robert Schneider of St. Stephen who was instrumental in the church building project. “We are not just building a beautiful church or a very functional Family Life Center—the purpose is to build up a stronger parish and have a stronger sense of community and discipleship,” he explained.
Ever since the St. Stephen Catholic School opened in 2001, the church and school have existed on two different campuses. However, after years of planning, budgeting and building, the entire St. Stephen Parish now resides at 10118 St. Stephen Cir. in Riverview.
In addition to the brand-new church building, the St. Stephen Parish welcomes a new priest. On Saturday, July 1, Fr. Dermot Dunne of St. Cecelia Roman Catholic Church in Clearwater assumes the priesthood at St. Stephen Catholic Church. In fact, the two pastors are swapping parishes with Fr. Schneider assuming the priesthood at St. Cecelia.
Furthermore, the parish ushers in a new Mass schedule that begins on Saturday, July 1. Weekend Mass times are Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Weekday Mass is held in the Chapel daily at 8:30 a.m. and on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
For more information on St. Stephen Catholic Church, call 689-4900 or visit www.ststephencatholic.org. The church is located just off of Boyette Rd. in Riverview.