St. Therese was a hope and a dream for a group of Byzantine Catholics in St. Petersburg. For some time they worshipped in other places but finally their prayers were answered - on December 20th, 1964, they sang the first Divine Liturgy as a parish with their own home. At first they worshipped in what became the parish house - Father John Puskar was the first priest. Over a period of time the parish grew, another building was built in 1973 which served as the church. Father Robert Ference was the priest at that time and the parish drew in new members.
In 1982 the large Branthoover Center was built - a hall for meetings, classes, celebrations and other events. Later, two sisters brought their dedication and their skills to St. Therese.
In 1992, the very beautiful jewel - the present church of St. Therese - was dedicated, a gift to God thanking Him for His mercies and a tribute to the devoted parishioners who worked so hard to bring this to pass.
Father Edward Cimbala was the priest who followed Father Ference but he has now been called to serve up north. Now we are blessed with having Fr. Robert Evancho (and his beloved Samoyed, Tasha) with us. Our two sisters now are Sister Martha Moyta, who was one of the original sisters here, and Sister Susan Sisko.
When asked how the Western saint, St. Therese, came to be the patroness, it was explained that, at the time a church was planned in this area, there were no Byzantine churches south of New Jersey and this was considered "mission territory"! St. Therese, being the patroness of missions, was chosen to watch over the new parish.
St. Therese is awaiting further work inside the church and on the grounds. We pray that the Lord will bless our efforts to serve and glorify Him.
What People Say About St. Therese
St. Therese has been a very special place for me. I first visited it for a Moleben service for a pro-life group who were to have a prayer & procession that day to an abortion clinic. Fr. Ed was the priest at that time and he welcomed our group, celebrated the liturgy for us, encouraged our efforts when few did. I was deeply moved by the sense of holiness and majesty of the liturgy.
I next came to St. Therese for a "learn about the Eastern Rite" weekend and was fascinated by the classes on icons, liturgy and customs and by the warmth of everyone in the parish.
This parish has felt like family to me - it is small and warm and the Divine Liturgy surrounds one with a sense of stability and the nearness of the love of God. The liturgy is celebrated with great seriousness and the voice of the cantor, John Magulick, lifts one away from earthly concerns to contemplation of the eternal. Thank you, St. Therese!
- a parishioner