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Feature News | Thursday, April 18, 2024

‘Vimos el sueño hecho realidad’

El Arzobispo Thomas Wenski consagra la nueva iglesia de Misión Santa Ana en Naranja

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NARANJA  |  For more than 30 years, Verónica Martínez has been a parishioner of St. Ann Mission in Naranja. She was married in the church and her three children received their sacraments there.

She is a lector, an usher and supports the mission’s youth group. She began attending St. Juan Diego Chapel at Camp Everglades in Florida City when she was working as a preschool teacher. One day, she saw a trailer and was told, “that’s the church,” Martínez recalls.

She started going to “that little trailer” and that’s how she learned that it was one of the three chapels of the mission.

“For a mission, we’ve grown quite a bit,” Martínez said, noting that, for years, many people had to stand outside during Sunday Masses. “We parishioners had to suffer the inclement weather, the rain, the heat, but even so, we were faithful to St. Ann Mission.”

When they were told over two years ago that a new church would be built, “we were thrilled and now (that the church is already built) we are even more excited because we have seen the dream come true,” said Martínez.

Moved to tears, Martínez shared, “It is emotional because it is worth the sacrifice and all that we have worked for, each and every one of us, to see this dream become a reality.”

Archdiocesan priests look at the new church of St. Ann Mission as they await the start of the consecration Mass March 19, 2024.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Archdiocesan priests look at the new church of St. Ann Mission as they await the start of the consecration Mass March 19, 2024.

With this new church, “we will all be able to be more united in sharing the word of God,” Martínez noted moments before the Mass of dedication and consecration of the new church March 19, 2024, the feast of St. Joseph.

“It was obvious for a long time that the old church was not the most adequate for the needs of this community. And the fact that this day has come is an answer to many prayers. With God all things are possible,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski during his homily at the consecration.

“The people this mission serves needed this new temple. They needed a place of worship that was dignified and more spacious. Many improvements to the mission facilities were needed.”

They were since the previous church had a capacity for only 200 people and the mission is home to some 400 families. The new church seats 600 people and was made possible by a $6 million bequest to the archdiocese from the late Patricia Van Busch. And the archbishop decided to use that money to help St. Ann Mission.

“The archdiocese also contributed almost $2 million,” said David Prada, senior director of Building and Properties in the archdiocese, adding that the new construction received many donations from contractors and subcontractors, from various archdiocesan parishes and especially from the community itself.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski talks with Fr. Rafael Cos, administrator of St. Ann Mission, moments before he dedicated and consecrated the new church March 19, 2024.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski talks with Fr. Rafael Cos, administrator of St. Ann Mission, moments before he dedicated and consecrated the new church March 19, 2024.

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad!” exclaimed Father Rafael Cos, the mission administrator, during the Mass of consecration. He thanked Archbishop Wenski and supporters of the archdiocese, the architect, his brother priests who contributed on behalf of their communities, the Camcon Group, in charge of the construction, all the contractors who generously donated, the parish community, and all those who collaborated in the construction of the new church, which serves the farmworker community of Homestead and Florida City.

 

NEW CHURCH

Construction began in August 2022 in two phases. The first was the mission building, which houses the church offices, four classrooms, and the food and clothing banks. What they had before were separate modular structures in bad conditions.

“The new facilities are modern and suitable for the service they provide to the community and that they deserve,” said Carlos Sanabria, project manager of the archdiocesan Office of Building and Properties.

The second phase was the church's construction, which began in February 2023.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches his homily during the celebration of the dedication Mass for the new St. Ann Mission Church in Naranja, March 19, 2024.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches his homily during the celebration of the dedication Mass for the new St. Ann Mission Church in Naranja, March 19, 2024.

The new church was inspired by the style of Californian missions, “to give the community a sense of their countries,” architect Carlos Huembes pointed out.

The design was adapted to a fairly economical budget. “It has no columns inside. It’s the same type of structure used for airplane hangars,” Prada said.

It also allowed for a choir loft and a huge wooden altarpiece on the altar wall, in the style of an old Spanish mission.

Since the community is very devoted to the Virgin of Guadalupe, her image was placed in the center, hung with wires from above. It was a donation from Father Richard Vigoa, pastor of St. Augustine Church, in Coral Gables.

There is an image of St. Joseph with the Child Jesus on one side of the altar, and an image of Mother Cabrini, patroness of migrants, on the other.

Father Alejandro Rodríguez Artola, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle, in Miami, “was extremely important and critical for the altar design and decoration details,” Sanabria said.

Father Rodríguez, who has experience in interior design, helped coordinate materials, colors, liturgical details and placement of decorative elements.

He softened the colors of the altar niches with fabrics, highlighted the altar columns with touches of gold, organized assistance from other parishes, and secured the donation made by brothers Joseph and Philip Vento of marble for the floor of the altar and niches, and of the tile for the bathrooms.

His parish, St. Thomas the Apostle, donated the two paintings at the entrance of the church, one of Jesus with John the Baptist during their infancy, and another of the doubting Thomas.

“When the Lord offers you a gift, it is not yours. And being able to participate in setting up that space, that environment so people can praise God, is an honor. Sometimes I don’t know who is more blessed, me or them,” Father Rodríguez said.

The image of St. Ann with the Virgin Mary as a child, which was in the old church, was restored by Father Cos and the community. There are also eight stained glass windows depicting the mysteries of the rosary.

 

MODERN DETAILS

The new church is a fully outfitted building with all modern equipment and fixtures, including wi-fi.

The air conditioning system controls the humidity, cold and heat.

The lighting system allows changing scenes at the push of a button, according to the needs of the church.

The sound system was designed so that the Mass can also be heard in the surrounding square and in the parish hall, with a streaming system so that it can also be viewed online.

All this was done in anticipation of future need since the Guadalupe Festivals welcome hundreds of faithful during several days of celebration.

 

The congregation applauds after the lights are turned on at the Mass, which was celebrated March 19, 2024, by Archbishop Thomas Wenski and several archdiocesan priests.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

The congregation applauds after the lights are turned on at the Mass, which was celebrated March 19, 2024, by Archbishop Thomas Wenski and several archdiocesan priests.

DREAM COME TRUE

The dream of having a new church lasted several decades and the community raised funds for that dream. A year ago, that fundraising became more intense.

“We went from selling enchiladas, taquitos, flautas at the annual Guadalupe Festivals, to selling food every Sunday,” said Noemi López, a lector and member of Comunidad Unida (United Community), a group created to raise funds for the additional expenses of the construction.

With Father Cos’ approval, a letter asking for donations was distributed among parishioners, and then went out to small businesses in the Homestead community, such as jewelry stores, nurseries and restaurants, and others.

“There were donations of $10,000 or $5,000, but it is important to note that the businesses making donations are not big,” López said.

“It is a joy to be able to see our church completed. I told everyone give the amount you can give, because at the end, when it is finished, you can say, ‘I contributed, that is mine.’ With the money from sales and donations, we reached over $100,000,” noted Martín Mojarras, organizer of the Comunidad Unida project.

March 19, 2024
Mia
Parishioners pray at the Mass dedication and consecration of St. Ann Mission in Naranja. The celebration took place on March 19, 2024. 

Consecration of the new church of St. Ann mission, in Naraja. Dedication Mass was held on March 19, 2024, on the feast of St. Joseph, and was celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski and several Archdiocesan priests. The construction was made possible thanks to the generous donation of Patricia Van Busch and the support of the community.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

March 19, 2024 Mia Parishioners pray at the Mass dedication and consecration of St. Ann Mission in Naranja. The celebration took place on March 19, 2024. Consecration of the new church of St. Ann mission, in Naraja. Dedication Mass was held on March 19, 2024, on the feast of St. Joseph, and was celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Wenski and several Archdiocesan priests. The construction was made possible thanks to the generous donation of Patricia Van Busch and the support of the community.

Building a church with that budget, “I don’t think the community could have done it alone,” Sanabria said. And, in fact, “many of us still don’t believe it,” López added. For more than a year they had been celebrating Mass in the parish hall, and now the church was ready to celebrate its first Holy Week.

The construction of the church brought parishioners closer together as a community. They donated all the landscaping. “The area is full of nurseries and they donated plants, trees, flowers. We had a list of about 25 nurseries,” Prada said.

The community also donated the paving stones that were placed in the design of a cross at the entrance of the church, connecting it to the plaza.

“That community is amazing, the dedication they have. They really teach you what it is to have faith and what it is to be a community,” Sanabria observed.

St. Ann Mission was founded in 1961 to serve the families of mostly Mexican and Central American farmworkers in South Miami-Dade County. The funds raised from food sales and other activities during the festival are used to help the families who come to the mission.

Dozens of parishioners listen to the consecration Mass of the new church of St. Ann Mission in the outdoor plaza. The new church was at its capacity of 600 people March 19, 2024.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Dozens of parishioners listen to the consecration Mass of the new church of St. Ann Mission in the outdoor plaza. The new church was at its capacity of 600 people March 19, 2024.


On behalf of St. Ann Mission, a heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all those who donated their time, talent and services to this project:

Accbalbal Huembres Fontan Design Studio, Air Pros USA, All Green Landscaping, Alvares LLP, American Service of Miami, Civil Engineers, Angelica Sanchez Landscaping, Arcon Rufin, Arfran Inc, A&C Nursery, Bamboo Hammock Nursery, Jose Gomez Borja, Brill Rodriguez Salas Structural Enginieers, Julio Calles, Camcon Group, Mingy Crespo and Family, CStone Solutions, Cypress Landscaping Nursery, DNA Nursery, Eddie Soil Company, Florida Safeguard, Inc., Foliage Express Nursery, Gina Gomez, Weston Gomez, Ahmed Halabe, Harold’s Fertilizer, Infinity Roofing, Juan Alegre Nursery, karen Nursery, K N M Nursery N Landscaping, LAAN Group Engineers, Langan Engineering, Legacy Nursery, Marquez Nursery, Carlos martinez y Family, Mayas Nursery, Metal & Iron Works LLC, Moroneys’ Religious Art, Mr. Glass, Otero Nursery, The Paint Spot, Powertech Electrical, Rabbit Nursery, RDJ Nursery, Rex Fabrics, Inc., Roblero Nursery, Rodmark Construction Corp., Andres Rosas, Rubio’s Nursery, San Luis Nursery, St. Germain Nursery, SVP Tile & Marble, Inc., Tamaulipas Nursery, The Three Plant Lady’s, USA Tile & Marble, Jose Angel Valdivia, Verdeja – De Armas, Trujillo – Alvarez, LLP.

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