Letters from the Pastor


Dear Friends,

About a year and a half ago, we inaugurated the Legacy of Faith campaign for our parish.  This Appeal sought to enable us to build a “new house for God’s Church” at St. Paul’s.  The response to this Appeal has been so gratifying — such a generous response from our parishioners — members of this “household” of God’s Church.
Not long ago I reported, and we celebrated, that we met the $8 million pledge goal, and we then sought to reach the $4 million cash goal required by the diocese to proceed with the project.  Amazingly, by the end of December, we reached that goal as well.  Such an outpouring of generosity from so many!
We will soon seek approval from the Diocese of St. Augustine and the City of Jacksonville Beach for our building plans.  Bishop Estevez will join us on Friday, June 7th, to celebrate 5:30 Mass, after which we will have the official groundbreaking for the new church.  All are welcome, so save the date!
I am enormously grateful for the benevolence of our parish – for all the gifts large and small that have enabled us to meet so many milestones so quickly.   I am also appreciative of the myriad of prayers that have made these successes possible.

The hope is to be in the new church by Advent, 2020!    Building on the legacy of faith that has been a foundation for this parish and school for so many decades, we all now make a gift that will have a lasting benefit for decades to come.  It will be important as we proceed, that pledge payments remain current.  If payments stay on schedule, we should be able to finish the new church and be debt-free within five years!

This summer we will also be able to address new windows in the original school and AC needs.  The purchase of the day-care center across from Murphy Hall will enable us to have a state-of-the-art pre-K building which will open in August.   The St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store has chosen to relocate to a much larger facility than we could have provided on the parish campus.  After we are in the new church, a Eucharistic Adoration chapel in our existing Church will be possible, along with even more improvements for our school and parish.
Even more gratifying is that while fulfilling pledges to the Legacy of Faith campaign, parishioners have continued regular offertory support to maintain the operations of our vibrant and growing parish, which is now the largest parish in the diocese!
Each weekend you, your families and your intentions are remembered at Mass — there is always a “missa pro propulo” — a “Mass for the people.”  I am grateful for your gifts, your generosity, your prayers and your support for this Legacy of Faith.
May the Lord who began this good work bring it to successful completion.

With my deepest gratitude,

Father Michael R. Houle


Dear Parishioners of St. Paul’s,

I write to answer some concerns that have been addressed to me and to my leadership team about the safety and security of our young members of St. Paul’s Parish.  With all that has been discussed in the media, I completely understand your need to know our policies and procedures.

All priests, deacons, and religious sisters who serve in the diocese have the same background checks that lay people do, along with safe environment training and on-going in-service.  They are not allowed to be alone with young students at any time.  The same restrictions apply for any visiting clergy – they must be cleared by the diocese along with clearance from their own diocese or religious communities.

Many of you have questioned why we have had so many parochial vicars (associate pastors) over the years.  Typically assistant pastors are moved every three years in order to prepare them to become pastors.  Also, those missionary priests who seek to become part of the Diocese usually have three different assignments as parochial vicars so their suitability and skillfulness can be observed and assessed by three different pastors.

There are definite regulations in place regarding guests in both of our rectories.  Visitors must be approved by the pastor prior to their invitation to visit.  Minors are only allowed in the rectory during business hours and must be accompanied by at least one parent.  I have asked our priests to continue to be a visible presence in the school, at religious education programs and at parish events, as these are all open to teachers, catechists and parents as well.

To my knowledge, during my 40 years of priesthood, I am not aware of any circumstance like those that have been in the media occurring at St. Paul’s.  When there is a credible claim, the diocese publishes this fact in whatever parish or institution the offender has served.

The priests of St. Paul’s hope to keep and restore your trust by holding ourselves accountable to being above reproach in every possible way.  Please join us as we pray for God’s wisdom and strength for renewal as we follow St. Paul’s instruction: “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Fr. Michael Houle