Now less than a year away from the celebrations of the 450th Anniversary of the establishment of St. Augustine as the first European City in the United States, the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine has announced a local Jubilee Year for locals and visitors alike.
The Most Reverend Felipe J. Estévez recently announced that the 17-county diocese in Northeast Florida would observe the Jubilee Year to recognize and celebrate the founding of America’s First, and Oldest, Catholic Parish. In the Bull of Indiction, issued on Aug. 27, 2014, Estévez acknowledged to the Catholic faithful that such an historic event “rightly makes us proud.”
The Jubilee Year will be filled with events leading up to the major celebrations on Sept. 8, 2015. On that day, His Eminence Sean Cardinal O’Malley will be the principle celebrant and homilist at a Solemn Mass to be celebrated in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine. O’Malley has been named by Pope Francis as papal legate for the commemorations surrounding the City’s anniversary and the simultaneous establishment of the first Catholic parish in what is now the United States of America.
Bishop Estévez has encouraged pastors of parishes in the Diocese of St. Augustine, as well as all visitors who come to the city in the year ahead, to make a spiritual pilgrimage to the various Catholic sites in and around St. Augustine. At these places he suggests that people “be reinvigorated with the grace of salvation… so that [you] may be inspired in our time to be proclaimers of the Word and witnesses to Jesus Christ.”
Another major part of the year-long celebrations will be the arrival in St. Augustine of a significant relic of Saint Augustine of Hippo. The City of St. Augustine is named after the fifth century Christian bishop. Such a relic has never before come to the United States of America.
“If all goes as planned, the relic should be here for the period after Easter in 2015,” the Cathedral’s rector, Father Thomas Willis said. “Bishop Estévez and his staff are working closely with the Augustinian Order in Rome to have a reliquary that holds a finger of St. Augustine to be able to travel here. We are anxiously awaiting word that the complicated process to allow the relic to come here will be approved.”
Fr. Willis also noted that the Cathedral Parish, which is America’s First Parish, has had a new logo designed. It will be used in all print material during the Jubilee Year.
“No parish or city in our country has ever come to a celebration of 450 years. The Cathedral Parish is going to do everything we can to acknowledge, celebrate and commemorate this historic event,” Fr. Willis remarked. “The logo will be a constant reminder to our parishioners that this is a special time for us.”