Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ASSUMPTION TURNING 100; Generations of Catholics Served by City's 'New' Parish

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ASSUMPTION TURNING 100; Generations of Catholics Served by City's 'New' Parish

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan

Over a century ago, there was only one way for devout Southside Jacksonville Catholics to fulfill their Sunday obligation.

They had to board a tin rowboat at dawn at the St. Johns River's South Ferry site in San Marco and row toward Immaculate Conception Catholic Church downtown.

That changed when Bishop W.J. Kenny approved a petition for a sanctuary on the other side of the river. A storefront on St. Johns Avenue, now Prudential Drive, became the first Assumption Catholic Church. Its first pastor, the Rev. Patrick Barry of Palatka, lived above the store.

To celebrate the centennial of that church's first service Oct. 5, 1913, parishioners are hosting a Saturday dinner party, then a noon Sunday Mass and reception at the current church at 2403 Atlantic Blvd.

"There were 140 people who came for that first Mass, and that is pretty substantial," said the Rev. Fred Parke, the current pastor.

"There was old St. Joseph Catholic Church [17 miles away] in Mandarin, but Mandarin was like another world away then," Parke said. "This church is the mother church of the Southside, and the first offspring was at the beach, which then became St. Paul's. There are now seven daughter parishes."

William C.B. Sollee was one of those who petitioned for a new church, and his son was an altar server at that first Mass. Grandson and local dentist Richard Sollee remains in a parish that now has 2,300 families from San Marco, St. Nicholas and Empire Point. His son John, a seminarian training for the priesthood, will help in this centennial Mass.

"Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize the privilege of having family members continuing this," Sollee said. "My grandparents and my father would be elated to have a continuation of family members, especially a potential clergy member."

That South Jacksonville storefront church on the east side of an alley didn't last long. A real church was built within a year off Gary Street, followed by a rectory and school. …

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