Nestled beautifully on the border of Orange and Lake Counties is St. Patrick Catholic Church, serving Catholics in the greater Mount Dora Area. St. Patrick Catholic Church was actually born out of sheer necessity. In 1968, there were in excess of two hundred Catholics in this area and they had nowhere to worship. Crowded conditions at St. Mary of the Lakes in Eustis made it necessary to establish a “mission” church.
The original property on which St. Patrick Church was built had been purchased many years before by Archbishop J.P. Hurley of the Diocese of St. Augustine. At the time of Archbishop Hurley, the entire state of Florida was one diocese. Presently the state of Florida has seven Catholic dioceses, located in Miami, Palm Beach, Venice, Orlando, St. Petersburg, St. Augustine, and Pensacola/Tallahassee. Prior to the first church being built, parishioners gathered each Sunday morning at the Legion Hall for Mass. By 1970, it was evident that the families attending this new “mission” church would be able to support a new parish. On March 19, 1972, Bishop Borders of Orlando presided over the ground-breaking for the new Church and on April 29, 1973, a Solemn Dedication of the new church took place and the life of St. Patrick Church began in earnest.
From those early days of a few hundred families, St. Patrick Parish is home to approximately 1,700 families, coming from Mt. Dora and the surrounding communities. When established, the parish ministered primarily to seniors and winter residents. Over the years many young families, who have moved to the area, have joined the parish and now the parish has a large religious education program for these children – 185 students from first grade to senior high. Besides an extended education ministry, St. Patrick parish also has an active music ministry program, which includes a traditional choir, contemporary choir, cantors, bell choir and a children’s choir. The parish also runs a day-care program for 60 children, from infants of six weeks old to pre-K. The Church is also host to the Florida Lakes Symphony Orchestra for their performances for the past two seasons. Many people from the area enjoy the beautiful music of this sixty piece orchestra throughout the year.
In 1995, Bishop Norbert Dorsey invited the Third Order Regular Franciscan Friars to minister to the good people of Saint Patrick Parish. Fr. Emile Gentile, T.O.R. was the first Franciscan Friar to pastor St. Patrick Parish. He retired from ministry in the summer of 2007 when Fr. Robert D’Aversa, T.O.R. was named the new pastor and Fr. Blase Romano, T.O.R. the associate pastor. Six years ago a new Church building was built on property above the present “campus” to accommodate the growing number of Catholic families moving into this area. The present Church can comfortably seat 1,200 people (the original Church only sat 400) and is a beautiful composition of light, with stained & clear glass, which allows the visitor a peaceful place of spirituality and contemplation.
The parish includes a significant Spanish speaking population, largely Mexican in its composition. The lively celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 11) is something to behold with Mariachi players and Aztec dancers.