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Fr. Roland Lajoie, SM celebrates Mass with Fr. Ken Ridgeway, SM and Fr. Ray Coolong, SM, who also live and serve at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Fr. Roland Lajoie, SM celebrates Mass with Fr. Ken Ridgeway, SM and Fr. Ray Coolong, SM, who also live and serve at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
PARISH STORY

Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Tampa
A place of celebration, comfort and evangelization
By Fr. Roland Lajoie, SM

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) is a missionary parish in the diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida. While a small parish, it plays a very important role in the new evangelization. Ministry is done in Spanish and English, accommodating anyone seeking a relationship with God.

The Marists have been here since 1986, when Fr. Thomas Stokes, SM arrived. Fr. Tom served as first Marist pastor, from 1986 to 2012, after which I assumed duties as pastor.

The present parish population of OLPH approaches some 600 faithful. Among these parishioners, you will find 11 different nationalities represented. The larger segments of our population comprise Mexicans and Filipinos. There are a minority of founding families who represent an array of backgrounds, including: Cuban, Italian and Spanish.

The majority of our faithful will travel anywhere from 10 to 35 miles to worship at OLPH. A major highway (I-4 from Tampa-Orlando) has separated the family housing area so it is not a neighborhood parish for many. The Church property is surrounded by the commercial district of Ybor City.

Our Blessed Mother is honored by the array of devotion coming from so many nationalities.

Our ministry focus in this parish is Evangelization, serving English- and Spanish speaking parishioners. This has inspired two religious education programs in service to our children. Generous parishioners give their time and talent to educate the young.

As the youth take their religious education on Sunday mornings, many of their parents engage in adult formation classes given by the pastor. These classes assist parents in their roles as the first teachers of the faith for their children.

An RCIA program in Spanish and English attracts many adults and young adults to formation in preparation for the Easter Sacraments. In fact, ten adults received the Easter Sacraments at the Easter Vigil this year.

Participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is celebrated one half hour before weekend masses, and whenever requested, is rising rapidly.

Baptisms are plentiful in the Spanish population so we stay busy with preparation classes for the parents and godparents. Many parents are able to validate their marriages as they bring their children to be baptized.

Marriages are also celebrated in Spanish and English here. Pre-cana days and Foccuss exercises are part of the sacramental preparation. Many couples come from outside the parish to be married at OLPH. The Church has beautiful stained glass windows. You will also find here Spanish and Filipino prayer groups and scripture study groups.

Fr. Roland Lajoie, SM celebrates Mass with Fr. Ken Ridgeway, SM and Fr. Ray Coolong, SM, who also live and serve at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Parish volunteers feed homeless and displaced persons every Thursday night.

We have outreach to the materially poor, doing our best at the rectory door bell requests and hot meals served for all who come on Thursday nights. A team of about 15 volunteers from our parish and a nearby parish see to it that all who come are fed well. Each volunteer brings a dish, and we feed anywhere between 35 to 45 people. We start with soup and then a prayer, a blessing and then we sing the Ave Maria in Spanish and English.

Some of the local stores and bakeries offer day-old goods so we are able to give everyone who comes a bag of goodies for the next day. The majority of the people who come are men and they show up at 4:00 for a 5:30 meal. Sometimes they come not just for the food but spiritual nourishment, sometimes they just need a friend.

Our liturgies are vibrant with good music provided by a two choirs: Spanish and English. Our Blessed Mother is honored by the array of devotion coming from so many nationalities.

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