It all began in 1987 when the Diocese of Orlando purchased twenty acres for a future church on Murrell Road, north of Wickham, in Viera.
About eight years later the pastor of Ascension Church, Father Frances X J Smith, determined that the facilities and priests at Ascension would be overburdened when projected home developments west of Wickham and north of Pineda were realized. A committee conducted a survey to discover how many people would leave Ascension if a new church was built on Murrell Road. Roughly 600 families said they would make the switch, and 250 from St. Mary's in Rockledge concurred: they would make the same change. With this information a request was submitted to the Diocese to start plans for a new church. After considerable study, the Diocese informed Father Smith that no diocesan priests would be available for the new church. Father Smith then proposed a missionary church. No response came from the Diocese, so Ascension stopped planning for the new church.
Six years later, early in 2001, Holy Cross Congregation approached the Orlando Diocese and offered to provide priests to start a new parish in Central Florida. The Murrell Road property remained available, and Holy Cross assigned Father Laurence M. Olszewski, csc, as pastor and Father Robert A. Wiseman, csc, as associate pastor to establish a new parish, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Community.
Father Larry and Father Bob scouted around for a temporary facility. They negotiated a contract with the county and the school board to use county facilities for weekend services. Very soon they also made arrangements to use Faith Viera Lutheran Church on Viera Boulevard for daily morning Masses. They recruited about 120 parishioners for ministries needed to assist them in these Masses. Father Larry recruited financially adept parishioners to serve as a Finance Committee as required by Canon 537. He also recruited people with engineering expertise to form the Building & Planning Committee. The new parish began with about 300 families.
The Church At Viera, which is located just south of the Murrell property, approached Father Larry offering their property and facilities for sale. These facilities seemed suitable for long-term administrative and classroom use. Additional construction could provide 600 seats for daily and weekend Masses. Further discussion with the pastor and representatives of The Church At Viera revealed that they would sell their property for less than $3 million, but they would continue to occupy the facility until they built a new church. Their proposal was presented to the Diocese, and it was agreed that while the site was acceptable, the conditions of sale were not.
Plans to build on the Murrell Road property commenced, and a capital campaign was launched. An architectural firm was selected and soil samples taken. The St. Johns River Water Management District determined that about ten of the twenty acres were wetland. More than eighteen months were spent in attempts to have this finding overruled since the property had been dry when purchased and for several years. The property apparently had become a runoff from developments to the north along Murrell Road and from the widening of Murrell Road. The wetland ruling could not be overturned.
Consequently, a search was undertaken for other property. Initially, a site south of Wickham (south of Target) to the west of I-95 seemed suitable. However, an architectural study found that the site was not large enough. The Viera Corporation suggested that Father Larry consider thirty acres in a soon-to-be-developed area east of the ballpark stadium parking area and training fields. The Viera Corporation indicated that they would extend Viera Boulevard over I-95 late in 2006 or early in 2007; there would be an exit off the highway about a quarter-mile north of the church property. The Diocese then, at Father Larry's request, purchased this property.
Early in 2002 Father Larry established the Parish Life and Worship Committees as well as a Religious Education Ministry. In 2003 he decided the parish needed a parish council to assist him. This decision was based on projections by the Finance Committee, estimating that the number of parish families would double within the first two years of occupying the new building and quadruple in five years.
So, in the fall of 2003 a parish council was established. Resumes were received and applicants interviewed by Father Larry. The council would assist and advise the pastor in all parish matters other than administration, finance, and building and grounds for which special committees already had responsibilities.
During the next two years council members developed a council mission statement, council by-laws, and the Parish Mission Statement. The Outreach Ministry was expanded and its chairperson added to the parish council. Eight objectives were established for 2005, and the council, through the various parish ministries, was successful or partially successful in reaching seven of its eight objectives. A new council established long-term goals and several objectives for 2006.
In 2005 completed drawings were sent to the county to obtain permits to proceed with construction. After several months of discussions and alterations the plans were approved. The contractor sent out requests for bids. When received, these bids caused some changes, mostly in the building interior, to be made to remain within established spending levels and the Diocese-approved loan of $1.6 million. The purchase of some items, such as major kitchen equipment, would be delayed.
The county indicated that Stadium Parkway was to be converted into a four-lane boulevard and that our plans therefore had to be revised for entrance, exit, and pedways (sidewalks).
The facility cost of the new building is about $7.6 million.
The Parish Life Center opened for its first Mass in Holy Cross Hall on March 31, 2007, the vigil of Palm Sunday, with about 1600 families registered in the parish.
5655 Stadium Parkway
Viera, FL 32940Office Hours: M-F 8:30am - 4:00pm
Phone: (321)637-9650Fax: (321)637-9651