Lake Nona Catholics will have a Parish of their own beginning the weekend of November 2 & 3, 2019. Excited residents have been working with founding pastor, Father Charles Viviano, for three months to be ready for the opening day of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini Catholic Church. Masses will be held at Narcoosee Middle School Performing Arts Center/Cafeteria, just in time for Saint Cabrini’s Feast Day on November 13.

“Our new Church is timed perfectly with the current growth explosion in Lake Nona,” said Father Viviano. “This timing also coincides with an area that is rapidly developing through the creative innovation of the Tavistock Corporation, which includes the building of hundreds of new houses and living communities, ‘out of the box’ shops & restaurants, and state of the art advanced medical and technological facilities. The area also includes a beautiful VA Facility; Nemours Children’s Hospital & Ronald McDonald House; and research centers that altogether give us the nickname ‘Medical City’ – with more to come.”

He explains that choosing a name for the parish “was a spiritual labor of prayer, intense research, and association.” His desire was to select a female saint with an obligatory feast day and one whose life “connects with the dynamics of Lake Nona.” What he discovered was a saint with “a deeply spiritual upbringing (who) came from a solid, rooted, and committed religious family who were blest by God to own very successful cherry tree farms in Italy. Even as a little girl, she had a true sense of adventure for innovative ways to expand the faith and to bring God to others. As she grew, she was captivated and invigorated by going ‘outside of the box’ of her comfort zone with new ideas and dreams that would eventually lead to the founding of her own religious community (Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or, M.S.C.).”

The choice seemed obvious in light of the commonalties. Saint Cabrini had an intense interest in education and concern for the physical health and well-being of everyone, “including her beloved immigrants leading to establishment many educational and medical facilities.” With Lake Nona’s ever expanding “Medical City” housing a hospital for veterans and University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine, Father Viviano says his research “…solidified my prayerful affirmation that Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini was a perfect fit for our new Church in Lake Nona – and that our new Church in Lake Nona was a perfect fit for her. This Holy woman went from cultivating and caring for God’s land to cultivating and caring for God’s people!” He notes that she is the first naturalized U.S. citizen to be named a saint and, among others, is the Patron Saint for Hospital Administrators.

Area residents are eager and willing to help establish the new parish. Sarah Luter and her husband Clay moved back to the Orlando area a year and half ago. In the hopes of finding a parish, they have “worshipped at over 25 different parishes” in the diocese since their arrival. Although she says, “It was wonderful to experience the different ways in which the parishes would celebrate the liturgy;” she quickly adds, “St. Cabrini is an answer to our prayers. We have been lost without a home parish.” She admits that her specific prayer included that her children, ages 21 and 24, would “recommit to attending Mass together as a family.” She says, “Both are excited to get involved at St. Cabrini. My daughter will sing in the choir and my son will assist with the AV ministry.”

“We’re beyond excited and motivated to help Father Charles and the burgeoning St. Cabrini community that is forming in Lake Nona,” says Clay. “What excites me most about having a home parish is building a community.”

Sarah is already actively involved in the hospitality ministry and liturgy noting the hospitality committee will provide coffee and donuts after the Sunday Masses, and cookies and drink after the Saturday Vigil Mass. “As Father says, it is not about the food that we offer. It is more about providing an opportunity for people to get to know one another.”

John Rivas and his wife Leidy can relate. They moved to the Lake Nona area four years ago and commuted 25 minutes to St. Joseph/St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish in Orlando where Leidy also worked. They learned of the new church through Lake Nona Catholic Group Facebook page and immediately stepped up to help. John leads the sacristans and is an aspirant in the diaconate program. Aside from saving more than $150 in tolls per month, with two children ages 15 and 17, the family is eager to have a local church. “The best part about it is that the community where we live will attend,” he says. “We don’t really see the people that we live with, in the place we worship, so that combination will be fabulous, especially for our children. Now they’ll see their classmates in church with them.” John adds, “Father is such a young, energetic and youthful spirit. I think he is going to really appeal to families of all ages.”

Many are unaware that a parish is built from the ground up by the pastor and his community. Rivas and his team are in the process of purchasing an altar, chairs and processional cross. It is articles such as these that are needed at the inception of any parish.

Music Director Phil Revekant recently purchased the parish’s organ. He moved to Orlando in June from Buffalo, NY where he coordinated music for three parishes. He planned to take a short break after 21 years in music ministry when the opportunity presented itself. “How could I not accept a position at a brand new church,” he said with excitement. Participants can expect to see a mixed choir, while musicians may vary depending on the Mass time.

Revekant says, “The fact that we’re bringing people from all these backgrounds and areas to form something new that is going to be distinctively diverse for that area, giving them a common home,” gives him great joy. His hope is to make it “very open and welcoming” so that people will “feel free to join in and be at home.”