HISTORY OF ST. MARY CATHOLIC CHURCH
The story of St. Mary Catholic Church began In the year 1914 in the midwest of the United States. A group of devoutly-Catholic Polish immigrants were attracted to the fabulous State of Florida by land-promotion sales-pitches published in the local newspapers. The promotions emphasized cheap farm land at $35 an acre, the possibility of three crops a year, and a local climate free from ice and snow. The group decided to relocate to Florida and selected the rural area in the northern part of Volusia County. In 1917, this area became part of Flagler County and later the City of Korona.
IN 1954, the Parish was transferred to the Dioceses of St. Augustine and has been served to the present time by Pastors under the Diocesan Administration.
IN 1964, St Mary celebrated its 50th Anniversary with A Solemn Pontifical Mass. The commemorative program was attended by numerous guests including several Priests from central Florida. At this time Father Diego Conesa was Pastor. Bishop Hurley of the Diocese of St. Augustine in a letter of congratulations to the Parish praised the parishioners,"who for a half century have held the line of the faith in Flagler County and have left a Christian imprint here which can never be effaced."
IN 1974, Father Cody came to St. Mary's Parish. He reorganized the St. Mary Cemetery and built St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Palm Coast. In 1977 Father Cody become Pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church and St. Stephen's Church. Father Julien replaced Father Cody at Santa Maria Del Mar and St. Mary. During this period the name of the Church was changed to St. Mary Catholic Church in recognition of the change in the Church's character from mainly ethnic Polish parishioners to a generally non-ethnic parish.
During this transition period St. Mary Church was not growing fast enough in comparison with Santa Maria Del Mar and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church to sustain itself and was in danger of being relinquished. IN 1979, Father Bayer, a recently retired Polish Priest, moved to Korona and assisted Father Julien. Father Bayer's hard work helped St. Mary to become a self-sustaining parish. Father Bayer kept the Polish tradition alive by offering a Mass in his native Polish Language and continued to be active in St. Mary until his death in 2002. It is of great interest to know that Father Bayer was a hero in the Polish underground during WWII. He was arrested and several members of this family killed for helping Jews escape the Nazis. After the War, Father Bayer worked as a teaching Priest with a Father Karol Wojtyla who would become Pope John Paul II.
IN 1980, Father Sebra replaced Father Julien as Pastor of Santa Maria del Mar and St. Mary.
IN 1989, St. Mary Catholic Church celebrated its 75th Anniversary. As Father Sebra pointed out,"St. Mary continues to be an active and growing local Parish that had been founded by Polish Immigrants in 1914 and in fact is the Mother Church to all the Catholic Parishes in Flagler County" i.e. St. Stephens, Santa Maria del Mar and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
IN 1990, Father John P. O'Flaherty became Pastor of Santa Maria del Mar and of St. Mary. In his quiet and forthright way, he accomplished many improvements for both Churches and was a great favorite of those who needed his help which was always available. The Church has a seating capacity of 300 in comparison with the old Church's capacity of 65. The original St. Mary Church still stands in quiet beauty, nearly unchanged and is used occasionally for weddings, baptisms and funerals.
IN 2003, after Father O'Flaherty's retirement, St. Mary came under the Pastorship of Father Slawomir with the able assistance of Father Artur both of the nearby St. Joseph Carmelite Monastery. The Monastery contains one of the most beautiful and simple outdoors Stations of the Cross in the world. St Mary continues to offer a Mass in the Polish Language for the numerous Polish speaking people from surrounding Counties.
Under the leadership of Father Slawomir Podsiedlik, St. Mary Parish added numerous new ministries and organizations: The Women’s Club, a Rosary Ministry, the St. Anne Food Pantry, the Respect Life Ministry, an Outreach Ministry and a Thrift Shop. These services were initiated to directly minister to the needy families of the general public. Parishioners volunteer their time and energy to staff these various services.
In 2014, St. Mary celebrated the 100th Anniversary of its founding. A number of previous pastors and Bishop Estevez concelebrated a special Mass on this occasion. Following the Mass, a banquet was held at nearby Halifax Plantation to commemorate our 100-year history.
Now, in 2018, a new chapter in the history of St. Mary Parish has begun. The diocese of St. Augustine has blessed us with the pastoral guidance of a diocesan priest, Father Slawek who was assigned by Bishop Estevez to serve the people of St. Mary. We thank our Carmelite Fathers for their dedication, their prayers and their ten years of service to our parish. They will always be in our thoughts and prayers.
We welcome Father Slawek as he becomes acquainted with our activities and who looks forward to leading us as pastor and guide. We thank the Lord for his presence among us and wish him many years of happy and fruitful service here in Korona.