Feature News

Church's 'rich history' reflected in insignia

Most of it was designed by a parishioner who also curates church's museum

Friday, May 18, 2012
Ana Rodriguez-Soto - Florida Catholic

The ombrellino is part of the papal regalia. It is one of the honorary symbols of a basilica and may be used in the basilica's coat of arms, and carried in processions by the basilica's canons. The ombrellino is normally made of alternating red and gold fabric, and is usually displayed in a partially unfolded manner. The eight-segment umbrella is two-feet, six-inches wide, and three-feet high. The support pole is standard gauge and is eight-feet in height; three feet fall within the umbrella portion, and five feet are exposed below.
MIAMI — For years, Felix Pradas has been designing a master plan for St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Key West.

“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. 

The tintinnabulum is a bell mounted on a pole, placed in a basilica to signify the church's link with the pope. The shape of the bell enclosure is based on the gold medal Mary Immaculate Star of the Sea School awarded to valedictorians, which pays tribute to the work of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary and the role of Catholic education in creating and sustaining the faith of the community. The total height of the tintinnabulum is eight-feet, six-inches.
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. 

This mosaic, of the papal coat of arms, is to be placed in the tympanum (the façade of the portico) within the narthex of the basilica.
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.

The coat of arms of the Minor Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea is based on the coat of arms of the Archdiocese of Miami. The position of the sand indicates that this parish was the beginning of the Archdiocese of Miami and is at the end of it. The conch shell is the traditional symbol of Key West. The star above the conch is for the church’s patroness. Below the cross and above the ombrellino is a conch pearl.
“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.”

  News Archive  News Archive
Feature News
Cubans, Hispanics celebrate Our Lady of Charity
Brazilians: 'Now our mother is with us'
Parish News
Father Murphy: Still pointing the way
Father Jose Alfaro installed as pastor of Blessed Trinity
School News
St. Brendan choir, Sabrette dance team perform at Marlins game
St. Thomas Aquinas student honored for poetry
St. Agatha School unveils new statue of patron saint
50 years later: Lourdes Academy gets a gym
Curley Notre Dame receives $8,000 grant
St. Bonaventure remembers 9-11
Our Lady of the Lakes teams off to strong start
To priests at convocation
He came to die because we are destined for more than just to die one day
Press Release
McCarthy HS 2014 School of Excellence
Krome Foundation hosts memorial exhibit
City of Hialeah to be consecrated
Health care professionals invited to White Mass
Urge your senators, representative to support Second Chance Act
Cardinal reacts to GAO's abortion report