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Parish News | Tuesday, November 21, 2023

'Open air parish' turns 70

Blessed Trinity parishioners recall early days of Mass under a tent and in a movie theater

Karen Borgmann, parishioner since 1955, and Carlos Villalobos, parishioner since 1966, bring the offertory gifts of bread and wine during the Mass marking Blessed Trinity Parish's 70th anniversary, Nov. 4, 2023.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Karen Borgmann, parishioner since 1955, and Carlos Villalobos, parishioner since 1966, bring the offertory gifts of bread and wine during the Mass marking Blessed Trinity Parish's 70th anniversary, Nov. 4, 2023.

VIRGINIA GARDENS | The oldest and newest Blessed Trinity parishioners occupied the front rows during the Mass marking the church’s 70th anniversary: Jeem Morocho, 3 months old, and Elizabeth Clark, 93, who was on hand when the parish began in 1953.

“One of my most memorable moments was going to Mass under a tent,” Clark said. “When it rained people would get wet.”

Clark’s daughter, Mary Clark, sat next to her at the Mass. Mary was baptized at Blessed Trinity in 1959 and graduated from Blessed Trinity School in 1973.

A priest blesses Jeem Morocho, 3 months, the newest member of Blessed Trinity Parish as his mother, Mailyn Ruiz, holds him during the Mass marking the Virginia Gardens church's 70th anniversary, Nov. 4, 2023.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

A priest blesses Jeem Morocho, 3 months, the newest member of Blessed Trinity Parish as his mother, Mailyn Ruiz, holds him during the Mass marking the Virginia Gardens church's 70th anniversary, Nov. 4, 2023.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Father Matias Hualpa, Blessed Trinity's pastor, enter the church for the Mass marking the Virginia Gardens parish's 70th anniversary, Nov. 4, 2023.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Father Matias Hualpa, Blessed Trinity's pastor, enter the church for the Mass marking the Virginia Gardens parish's 70th anniversary, Nov. 4, 2023.

A parishioner prays during the Mass marking Blessed Trinity Parish's 70th anniversary, Nov. 4, 2023.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

A parishioner prays during the Mass marking Blessed Trinity Parish's 70th anniversary, Nov. 4, 2023.

Another long-time parishioner, Elaine Riedinger, came to Blessed Trinity in 1956. She remembered when the first Masses were celebrated at the Circle Theater.

“We didn’t have to kneel because there was popcorn and soda on the floor since the theatre hadn’t been cleaned from the night before,” she said. “Eventually, the church was moved to a 10-acre site, at that time on the edge of the Everglades.”

Riedinger recalled that there were cows, goats, chickens and other animals on the farmland in the area that now encompasses the towns of Virginia Gardens and Miami Springs.

A dentist owned the big white house, which would later become the rectory and parish office, said Riedinger, who also remembered the Masses celebrated under the tent. Parishioners stood on “a concrete slab,” she said, and “brought their own chairs and umbrellas.”

Stephanie Kondy came to Blessed Trinity in 1953. She recalled that only military personnel could live in the city at the time. Her father was able to live in the community because of his job.

“My father worked for General Electric making airplane parts for the military,” said Kondy, a 1963 Blessed Trinity School graduate.

The names, photos and short quotes of long-time parishioners, including Clark, Riedinger and Kondy were included in a booklet handed out to parishioners at a reception following Mass.

Father Matias Hualpa, Blessed Trinity’s pastor, called the long-time parishioners, the foundation of the parish.

“They have seen the whole history of Blessed Trinity,” he said, “including the construction of the church and school; the influx of the Hispanic community.”

Today, there are 1,500 registered families in the parish and 216 students in the school.

Blessed Trinity began as a mission of St. John the Apostle Parish in Hialeah. The founders of the church chose Trinity Sunday as the date of their first Mass, according to a 2008 picture book of the history of the Archdiocese of Miami.

In the early 1950s, postcards at Miami International Airport described Blessed Trinity Church as the “open air parish.” The Miami Springs Villas offered temporary accommodation while the church was built. Archbishop Joseph Hurley of St. Augustine blessed the church and school in January 1958 – eight months before the Diocese of Miami was established.

The church has had several pastors throughout its history. Most notably, Father Joseph T. Carney, who served the parish for three decades beginning in 1982, until his death Jan. 2, 2013. He spearheaded an era of change and growth including, in 2000, the refurbishing of the church’s interior. The Joseph T. Carney Enrichment Center was dedicated in his honor later in 2013.

In his homily at the Nov. 4, 2023, Mass, Archbishop Thomas Wenski stressed the importance of parish life.

“The most enduring lesson that we learned from the pandemic is that we are social beings, we need each other, we need community, and we need God,” he said. “Parishes should be schools of prayer and communion, places where love of God and neighbor come together and so, parishes, as way stations along our sojourn, keep us from becoming ‘of the world’ and they enable us as we sojourn in the world to be always ‘for the world.’ Here, at Blessed Trinity many have come and gone. Among them were some saints and to be sure sinners. Today, we lift in prayer those pioneers, priests and people who were here at the beginning and have gone home to the Lord.”

Exterior view of the rectory of Blessed Trinity Church in Virginia Gardens, which a dentist originally owned on farm land. The parish marked its 70th anniversary with a Mass Nov. 4, 2023.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Exterior view of the rectory of Blessed Trinity Church in Virginia Gardens, which a dentist originally owned on farm land. The parish marked its 70th anniversary with a Mass Nov. 4, 2023.


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