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St. Pius X marks 60th

Parishioners praise family feeling, warmth and love at Broward's 11th oldest parish

Father Biju Vells, pastor at St. Pius X Church in Fort Lauderdale, addresses his congregation during the Mass celebrating the parish's 60th anniversary.

Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC

Father Biju Vells, pastor at St. Pius X Church in Fort Lauderdale, addresses his congregation during the Mass celebrating the parish's 60th anniversary.

Altar server Hunter Taravella holds the Missal for Archbishop Thomas Wenki and Father Biju Vells at the beginning of the Mass celebrating the 60th anniversary of St. Pius X Church in Fort Lauderdale.

Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC

Altar server Hunter Taravella holds the Missal for Archbishop Thomas Wenki and Father Biju Vells at the beginning of the Mass celebrating the 60th anniversary of St. Pius X Church in Fort Lauderdale.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives the homily during the Mass celebrating the 60th anniversary of St. Pius X Church in Fort Lauderdale.

Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski gives the homily during the Mass celebrating the 60th anniversary of St. Pius X Church in Fort Lauderdale.

Mary and George Vells, parents of pastor Father Biju Vells, pray during the Mass celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of St. Pius X Church in Fort Lauderdale.

Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC

Mary and George Vells, parents of pastor Father Biju Vells, pray during the Mass celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of St. Pius X Church in Fort Lauderdale.

FORT LAUDERDALE | Located near the beautiful Fort Lauderdale beaches, St. Pius X Church has been a tight knit community since it was established in 1959. The church, the 11th parish formed in Broward County, marked its 60th anniversary March 30 with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski.

“Our first Mass was held in the Marie Antoinette Dinner Club,” said Muriel Conroy, founding parishioner. “Then we went to the Beach Club until they finished building this church in 1960. Over the six decades that I’ve been a parishioner, I’ve been very happy. It’s always been a wonderful parish to attend. This community means everything to me because I feel as if I’ve been part of a group and that makes me feel very comfortable. I’m blessed.”

Over 100 people attended the Mass, which was followed by dinner at the Coral Ridge Country Club.

“We rejoice for the 60th anniversary of St. Pius X Parish,” Archbishop Wenski said in his homily. “For a church that’s almost 2,000 years old, 60 years might not seem like a big deal. But here in South Florida, where everything seems to have been built the day before yesterday, 60 years is something to celebrate — and celebrate we will.”

The church is named after Giuseppe Sarto, who served as Pope Pius X from 1903 until 1914 and was canonized in 1954. His papal motto, “Restoring all things to Christ,” is prominently displayed in the sanctuary. He is remembered for his resolute condemnation of the heresy of modernism but also for allowing children as young as seven to receive Communion. Inside the church is a shrine to St. Pius X which contains an Italian-carved statue of the saint, and a niche with the saint’s relic.

Nine pastors have served the church over the years. Throughout that time the parish has undergone several renovations, the most recent in the fall of 2018.

“We are grateful that the archbishop selected our parish to host the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops for their annual meeting,” said Father Biju Vells. St. Pius’ pastor. “We got new doors, lights, fixed the air conditioner, painted the hall, new windows and a few other things. Their visit was a blessing for our community and the timing was very special as well for our 60th anniversary.”

Father Gerald Morris, a retired archdiocesan priest and former pastor at St. Pius X, takes part in the Mass in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the parish.

Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC

Father Gerald Morris, a retired archdiocesan priest and former pastor at St. Pius X, takes part in the Mass in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the parish.

Among the many things that make the parish community special are headsets that are made available to those with hearing impairments. The headsets help parishioners follow along with the Mass. Ten headsets are available for those who need them.

Currently, the parish has 400 families when the season is at its peak and the “snowbirds” are in town. On a regular basis however, the parish has approximately 100 active families or about 100 people at each Sunday Mass.

“One of our fondest memories is starting bingo night at the parish,” said Scott Knight, longtime parishioner. “My wife, Brenda, and I also served on the Parish Council and helped spearhead the renovations. The parish community is filled with wonderful people. We consider everyone here old friends. Even though we now live on the west coast we love to come back and visit.”

“In the over 20 years we spent as parishioners, I can honestly say it was a wonderful experience for us,” said Brenda Knight. “It’s a warm and loving place and everyone cares for everyone, everyone is concerned for each other, there’s closeness here that we never experience anywhere else… It’s a family.”

The plan for the parish is to continue to grow and minister to those who may either be visiting the area or attend seasonally. The future is in the young people and the parish celebrates each baptism with great enthusiasm. “We are a family here and we welcome you to come visit us,” said Father Vells.

“We thank those who have gone before us — the priests who have served in this parish, the parishioners who first built up these buildings and this community,” concluded the archbishop in his homily. “May God reward them for their labors. And for you, the present-day parishioners of St. Pius X, may you witness to the Gospel zealously – but also with great love.”

Parishioners pray at the Mass celebrating the 60th anniversary of St. Pius X Church in Fort Lauderdale.

Photographer: JONATHAN MARTINEZ | FC

Parishioners pray at the Mass celebrating the 60th anniversary of St. Pius X Church in Fort Lauderdale.


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