St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church, which is one of the oldest parishes in the Diocese of Palm Beach, consists of over 2,700 families from many cultural backgrounds. Though the first Mass offered in Delray Beach is believed to have been in the home of the O’Malley family in 1920, it was not until April 15th, 1941 that Father William Nachtrab (pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Lake Worth) offered Mass in the Delray Theatre for this new “mission.”
It was around this time that St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church was declared a parish, and Father William Carroll became the first pastor.
In May of 1944, Father John J. Kellaghan was named second pastor of the fledgling parish. With generous donations made by the Giordano family, the first steps to meet an expanding Catholic population were initiated. A private residence at 42 S. Federal Highway had already served as both a rectory and the chapel for daily Mass. During his nineteen years of devoted service, Father Kellaghan oversaw the rapid growth of the parish and the construction of many of the buildings that currently enhance the grounds.
The first church of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish (later converted into a parish hall) had a seating capacity of five hundred people. On April 26th, 1949, the first Mass in the church was celebrated by the pastor. It was later dedicated by Auxiliary Bishop Thomas McDonough of St. Augustine, on May 20th, 1949.
The Sisters of St. Joseph from Lake Worth held religious education classes each Saturday in the church, but the need for a parish school became evident to Father Kellaghan and the parishioners. In May of 1955, the building of the parish school began. In August, four Sisters of Mercy from Kinsale, Ireland, arrived at the parish, and began their ministry there. Eager to begin their work, the Sisters even started classes in temporary quarters before the school was completed. Then, on October 25th, the parish students from kindergarten through sixth grade entered their newly completed school for the first time.
In April of 1960, St. Vincent’s (and the Diocese of Miami) was additionally blessed with the arrival of the Poor Clare Sisters from New Jersey. They were the first cloistered contemplative community in the state, and by July, there were five Poor Clares. As their community expanded, the need for a larger monastery grew and, in 1968, the Poor Clare Sisters moved to a newer Delray location a few miles away.
In 1961, a large convent for the Sisters of Mercy was completed to accommodate their ever-increasing numbers. Ultimately, though, their vocations needed assistance in keeping pace with the parish needs. In June of 2008, the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception arrived from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, replacing the Sisters of Mercy in the parish school. They currently teach in the parish school and assist with the religious education program.
The original multi-purpose building that served as a church was beginning to burst at the seams with the growth of the parish population. On October 12th, 1969 Archbishop Carroll of Miami broke ground for a new church. Within a year, the present church was completed, and Archbishop Carroll dedicated it on December 19th, 1970. In 2002, a new state-of-the-art parish multi-purpose building and gym was built. Known as the Parish Family Life Center, it contains a hall dedicated to the memory of Father Kellaghan.
In the years following, Father Kellaghan was succeeded by Fathers John Skehan, Father Francis Guinan, and the current pastor, the Very Rev. Canon Thomas Skindeleski. Msgr. Stephen Bosso, S.T.L., S.S.L., and Rev. Jay Haskin assist the parish on the weekends.
With the continued support of many loyal parishioners, several of the facilities have undergone renovation. The parish now boasts a beautiful, permanent chapel for the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a newly enhanced youth center, a renovated church interior and more recently, the parish school building that was enlarged to be twice its size in order to accommodate up to 430 students from pre-K 3 through 8th grades.
St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church is located at 840 George Bush Blvd, Delray Beach, FL 33483.
St. Vincent Ferrer School (below) is located at 810 George Bush Blvd, Delray Beach, FL 33483.