Friday, May 18, 2012
Ana Rodriguez-Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
“It’s something that I just love,” said the president of the church’s parish council and volunteer curator of its “little museum,” who works by day at the Truman Annex Naval Air Station.
Some months back, his pastor, Father John Baker, called to tell him: “Everything you have been asking and pushing for all these years, now they have to come to pass.”
The reason: the historic church had been designated a minor basilica by the Holy See, a place of pilgrimage for Catholics worldwide.
Pradas’ reaction: “Oh my God, what a joy. This is so fantastic, so perfect.”
Then he had a week to design a coat of arms for the new basilica, as well as an ombrellino and a tintinnabulum.
The ombrellino is literally a “little umbrella” which is always red and gold. But its eight lambrequins, or pendants, can have different seals commemorating unique aspects of the history of a particular basilica.
In the case of St. Mary Star of the Sea, these will include the seals of Pope Benedict XVI, the Archdiocese of Miami and the basilica itself; the seal of the Knights of Columbus, who paid for the ombrellino; and others honoring the Jesuits who founded the parish more than 150 years ago and the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who founded and staffed the parish school for decades.
While researching information about the tintinnabulum on e-Bay, Pradas found a gold medal from 1910 which the Sisters of the Holy Names handed to the class valedictorian each year. He had found his symbol.
“The bell is the call from the school and the convent and the church to come to the light,” said Pradas, who came to Key West with the Air Force in 1984 and met the woman who would become his wife that same weekend. She was singing in the choir loft.
His wife, sisters in law and late mother-in-law were all graduates of Mary Immaculate Star of the Sea School, so he knows how much the religious of the Holy Names have meant to the community.
“The people are very, very close to the convent and to the sisters … So I wanted to especially honor the sisters,” Prada said.
In fact, some of the sisters who served in the school will carry the tintinnabulum in the procession which will precede the Mass May 31.
“I get goosebumps. Those ladies are such sweet women,” said Pradas, who also designed the basilica’s coat of arms.
“It’s been fun to design all these things and then see them go up,” he said, pointing especially to the mosaic of the coat of arms which is already hanging in the church. “Having that thing on the wall is like I’m finally preserved here in stone. I’m part of this wall.”
As for his master plan, he said, “Now that we’re a basilica some of the changes that we suggested are going to be needed eventually. We’re going to be able to serve more people, receive more visitors, have a nicer display of the history.”
Among the plans is to move a lot of the items already on display in the “little museum” at the Renewal Center to an exhibit hall at the entrance to the new rectory, “so when people come in they have to go through it.”
The parish also hopes to install an interactive computer screen inside the vestibule of the church where people can look up the history — which is posted on the church’s website, www.keywestcatholicparish.org — as well as memorialize their deceased loved ones.
“The history is very deep and very beautiful,” said Pradas. “Our history is so rich.”