Bishop William Wack, who oversees the Catholic Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, conducts Mass together with Father Roger Latosynski, at right. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]
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Reenvisioning the sacred

It’s been a labor of love, an act of providence, a modernizing and an upgrading, and at a festive celebration Sunday, attended by the bishop, St. Patrick Catholic Church put a giant exclamation point to the nearly two-year-old effort.

“It’s beautiful,” said Bishop William Wack, who oversees the Catholic Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, as he enjoyed a plate in the fellowship hall from a lavish meal of boiled shrimp and fried fish prepared by members of the congregation.

“It’s a great example of a community coming together, everyone joining in a little bit, and now we have beautiful things again here,” he said. “I don’t think people would expect to see such beauty when they come in here.”

The bishop had just completed celebrating Mass, along with Father Roger Latosynski, before a sanctuary fully filled with a blend of regular attendees, visitors from afar and those occasional churchgoers who wanted to be part of the energized moment.

Bishop William Wack, who oversees the Catholic Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, waves to parishioners at St. Patrick Catholic Church at Sunday morning’s Mass. The bishop was in town to assist with the dedication to a rejuvenation of the sanctuary and its statues that were put in place last year. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]

Beginning about two years ago, Father Roger, who is about to mark his 30th year as the parish priest, was instrumental in launching this revival of structural elements of the sanctuary, including the three large statues that grace the front as well as the stations of the cross tableaus that ring the outside walls, each depicting a moment on Jesus Christ’s journey to Calvary.

The communion rail, that dated back to a pre-Vatican II era when it served as a strict separation between priests on the altar and congregants who knelt before it to receive the Eucharist, would have to be shortened, providing for a more open feel with visible and physical access to parishioners.

The old communion rail, stripped down.
The newly finished communion rail [ FC Ziegler Co. ]

The church turned to FC Ziegler out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a manufacturing church supply house that came highly recommended by Father John Kelly, who had commissioned Ziegler to outfit the newly built St. Sylvester Catholic Church in Gulf Breeze.

St. Patrick, built in 1929 with furnishings that date back 30 to 40 years before that, was a far different challenge for Ziegler, and one eagerly embraced by Mike Ziegler, one of the youngest of the four generations of the family-owned firm.

Mike Ziegler and his crew came down a year ago and pulled the original altar of sacrifice and the altar of repose behind it where the tabernacle rests. In that first phase, they stripped off the painted-on marbleized finish on the altar of repose, re-finished the candlesticks, and brought the crucifix down that was mounted on the top side of girders and hung on the back wall.

The former Martin de Porres statue [ FC Ziegler Co. ]

The newly painted Martin de Porres statue [ FC Ziegler Co. ]

In the second phase, Zieglers took away the side altars and refinished them to match the altar of repose. They reduced the communion rail from four down to two sections, and matched the finish as well.

Repair and repainting of the plaster of the three statues, of Mary and Joseph and St. Martin de Porres was done as well. The statue of Martin de Porres, who is the patron saint of mixed-race people and all those seeking racial harmony, had long been at Holy Family before the parish was integrated about 65 years ago and it was moved to St. Patrick.

The recoloration was done with brighter, more theatrical coloring to enable onlookers “to ‘read’ the composition of the statue at 20-30 feet. Even our black garment detail is perceived as black at these distances,” Ziegler said.

“Mary was pink and she was on the wrong side, painted the wrong colors and in the wrong place,” said Ron Copeland, a member of the congregation involved with the project.

Examples of the new hand-painted stations of the cross. [ FC Ziegler Co. ]

The third phase involved providing the church a set of 14 stations of the cross, each used to cover niches in the side walls and painted to match the existing finish.

Entering the project along the way was retired Tallahassee pediatrician Dr. Will Simmons, and wife Joyce, a retired Florida State professor of business. The Simmons have long had a second home on Cape San Blas and are regular attendees at the church.

When they learned about the project, and that Zieglers would be handling it, it turned out to be quite a coincidence. Dr. Simmons had lived in Tulsa for 30 years, and as a former lawyer was trustee of the Sue Ann Rice Trust, which is dedicated to preserving Catholic heritage.

The statue of Mary now has a blue wrap [ FC Ziegler Co. ]

He knew well Zieglers’ work, and so was able to put the project and the trust together to help with funding a large segment of the overall roughly $130,000 cost. 

“This is exactly what was meant for the monies of the trust,” Will Simmons said.

“We look at it as providential,” said Joyce Simmons.

Also lending support to the project, which was funded through a large number of private donations, was the James M. Doss Charitable Foundation, out of Bradenton.

The newly refinished statue of Joseph [ FC Ziegler Co. ]

The foundation is administered by Marla and Jim Doss, Jr., who is the great-grandson of James Montgomery, who along with brother Sam, were among the early settlers of Apalachicola, having built the Montgomery House, where the family of Olivier Monod, a member of St. Patrick, now lives.

Once completed by artists and craftsmen, the various works were returned back to the church beginning around Labor Day 2022, with the side altars and communion rail all back in time for Christmas.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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