St. Lucy Catholic Church was established October 3, 1968, when the Archdiocese of Miami purchased a tract of land on which the church is now located. At the time, the land was a large mangrove swamp with overgrown vegetation.
Through the efforts of the founding pastor, Father Michael Keller, a temporary chapel was made from the south duplex of the rectory and Masses were celebrated there. A temporary church was built under the direction of Father Patrick Slevin, the second pastor, and dedicated in 1972 by Archbishop Coleman Carroll of Miami.
Father Anthony J. Chepanis was appointed pastor in 1974, and soon after he purchased the old rectory and property behind it. The parish grew rapidly and presented a challenge in enlarging the seating capacity.
When it was decided to build the new St. Lucy Church and parish hall, many obstacles were encountered, primarily from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection—a good portion of the church property was a mangrove swamp. For more than two and a half years, negotiations ensued regarding the drainage of the property and filling in the remaining acre that was a mangrove swamp. When it was finally decided by the state agency that the remaining mangroves could not be removed, the Archdiocese of Miami had to grant an easement of more than one acre to the state of Florida for the preservation of the mangroves.
The structural design of the subsequent church is unique. Because many of the parishioners were seasonal, the church was designed to include a church and a parish hall under one roof—separate, yet capable of being a large church when needed.
E.N. Turanao, a prominent retired architect from New York city then living in Boca Raton, was hired to design and lead the building project. The church was designed to blend with the tropical nature of Florida—an openness that brought the outside into the church. The rear mosaic wall of the sanctuary (actually two huge doors that operate electronically) was designed to open into a huge room, which allows for additional seating for 500 people during the seasonal months. The room behind the doors serves as a beautiful hall for parish functions.
The current pastor of St. Lucy Parish is Father Brian Horgan, who is a former Air Force chaplain and has multiple master’s degrees in Criminal Justice, Social Work, Divinity, and a PhD in Philosophy, Psychology. He is beloved by the parishioners at St. Lucy Catholic Church, who describe him as youthful, with an infectious vibrant attitude. Father Horan celebrated the parish’s 50th anniversary in 2018, which the Coastal Star newspaper covered in an article at the time of the celebration.
To read more about Father Horan and St. Lucy Parish, visit https://thecoastalstar.com/profiles/blogs/highland-beach-st-lucy-catholic-church-marks-50-years?xg_source=msg_mes_network.
The church is located at 3510 S. Ocean Blvd., Highland Beach, FL 33487.
*Photo curtesy of St. Lucy Parish website.