Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Cynthia Thuma - Florida Catholic
POMPANO BEACH | From its start as a modest-sized church situated in the midst of a warehouse district, to the national attention it received for the state-licensed tavern it once operated, St. Henry Church in southern Pompano Beach has always been a special place where things sometimes get handled in unique ways.
On Jan. 12, the church began a 13-month celebration of its first 50 years with an opening liturgy concelebrated by Miami Auxiliary Bishop Enrique Delgado, who told the congregants: “Fifty years ago, this parish was established as a eucharistic community. We are all missionary disciples because we follow Jesus and we tell the world about Jesus. We need to understand that the Lord Jesus Christ is always waiting for us.”
The diverse, multinational community of faith at St. Henry’s has followed an atypical and occasionally bumpy path over the first 50 years, but the parishioners say the ride has been well worth it.
“We were founded in May of 1969, but in January we are celebrating the parish’s founding,” Father Francis Akwue, pastor, told parishioners at the opening Mass. “That’s because in May I will not have so many people here. In January, we are full, but in May, all those people, the snowbirds, are gone.”
The year ahead will see a variety of events, among them a March fish fry, a Family Fun Day on June 1 and a Christmas Around the World celebration in December. The closing liturgy will be celebrated Jan. 11, 2020, after which a jubilee gala, Jan. 25, will officially end the celebration.
Cheryl Graziose arrived early and sat next to her husband Jerry as the church filled to overflow for the opening liturgy. They then headed to the parish hall, the site of Henry’s Hideaway, the erstwhile tavern that was once housed there. A line had formed for a reception, a chance for the parish community to eat and celebrate with friends.
The couple had been parishioners at St. Henry’s for over a decade, Cheryl Graziose said. They had stopped by for Mass one Sunday when the fit at their old parish didn’t feel quite right.
“We started attending here because we felt comfortable,” she said. “You know how sometimes things just click? That’s how it was for us here. People are just very friendly here.”
That feeling of belonging is important, Bishop Delgado said. “Pope Francis sees parishes as the centers of evangelization, where everyone is welcome. …The parish must be a mission center.”
Fran Tully, a longtime parishioner, said St. Henry’s is all that and more.
“My friends used to say to me, ‘What’s going on at your church? There’s no kneelers there and you go straight to the bar right after Mass.’ Of course, that was in the past.”
She smiled as she looked over the crowd spilling into the parish hall. “It’s a closely-knit community here, a lovely parish,” she said. “It’s home.”
FAST FACTS ON ST. HENRY PARISH
- May 16, 1969: St. Henry Parish is established, named for the 11th century German-born king and Holy Roman Emperor, and a six-acre plot on the northeast corner of McNab Road and Andrews Avenue is selected for the church and rectory.
- June 1969: Irish-born Father Brendan Grogan, an associate pastor at St. Clement Church in Wilton Manors, is named the founding pastor at St. Henry’s. Father Grogan procures a place to celebrate Masses at a nearby warehouse and at Northeast High School in Oakland Park. Later, Masses are held at Pompano Park, a harness racetrack.
- 1972: Father Grogan begins a building fund for the new church and rectory buildings.
- March 10, 1974: Groundbreaking ceremonies are held for the 460-seat church and rectory alongside the Cypress Creek Canal.
- Dec. 14, 1974: Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll officiates at the blessing and dedication of the church.
- Summer 1980: Father Grogan leaves St. Henry’s and is replaced by Father James Reynolds.
- Nov. 28, 1983: St. Henry Parish Hall is dedicated by Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy. Parishioners finance the hall with interest-free loans to the parish of $500, $750 and $1,000 that were repaid within three years. The hall is built by a construction program staffed by parishioners who work in the building, plumbing and electrical trades, along with architect Franz Schropa.
- Autumn 1984: Concerned that the parish’s new social hall is not getting enough use, Father Reynolds learned a friend who owned a chain of restaurants was planning to close one of them. The priest asked if he could have the bar from it. He also procures permission from Archbishop McCarthy to operate a social club at the parish hall. St. Henry’s Men’s Club forms a corporation and obtains a club liquor license.
- Henry’s Hideaway begins operating as a social club to parishioners who pay $5 annual membership fee and $1.25 per drink. The tavern draws national attention, thanks to an article in Time magazine, but is met by mixed reviews. One opponent wrote to The Voice, then the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami: “Drinking alcohol is a carnal thing and wages war upon the soul.”
- 2005: Father Reynolds, who later became a monsignor, retires. Father Francis Akwue replaces him.
- Dec. 20, 2015: Archbishop Thomas Wenski dedicates and blesses renovations and a new front façade of the church.
- Jan. 12, 2019: Opening liturgy and reception are held, beginning the parish’s 50th anniversary celebration.