HOLLYWOOD | As South Florida boomed in 1924, St. Anthony Church in Fort Lauderdale founded a mission southward. Father Michael Mullaly arrived from Fort Lauderdale with a suitcase packed with vestments, two candles and a wooden chalice. So began Little Flower of Hollywood.
On Sundays, Father Mullaly celebrated Mass with an altar made of a converted packing case. Parishioners sat on plank benches. The following year, the congregation worshiped at two theaters, then a structure called the Olympia Building.
But the Great Hurricane of 1925 damaged that building, and it was condemned. With the boom ending, the parishioners were barely making ends meet. But they still managed to raise funds, and pitched in themselves, to build a small church in 1927.
They replaced that building with the present Mediterranean-style structure in 1941. A school opened in 1942, staffed by Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan.
During World War II, Little Flower welcomed military men who sailed into port, counseling them and serving meals. The church also married many young couples before each soldier was sent out to fight.
Church and school enjoyed growth over the decades, including addition of the bell tower and entrances made of coquina rock from North Florida.
Vandals set fire to the church in 1980, destroying the altar and the large wooden crucifix and causing extensive smoke damage. It took 10 months of fundraising and rebuilding to restore the church. The project also added a 1,200-pipe organ to replace the old electric instrument.
Parishioners run ministries to youths, families and grandparents. They also unite in service organizations like Respect Life, Knights of Columbus and the St. Vincent De Paul Society.
Little Flower plans to celebrate the 80th anniversary of its church building with a cocktail reception at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1. For tickets, at $15, call 954-922-3517.
The parish also will host a picnic on its patronal feast day, Sunday, Oct. 3, noon to 5 p.m. Call 954-922-3517 for more information.
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