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Seminarians delve into state’s Catholic history

PORT ST. LUCIE  |  Aiming to expand the knowledge of diocesan seminarians in local church history, the Office of Vocations and Seminarians presented a Florida Catholicism workshop July 19 at St. Bernadette Parish in Port St. Lucie. 

Five men in the diocesan priestly formation program attended the presentation under the direction of Father Michael J. McNally, a former seminary professor, author, historian and pastor emeritus of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Fort Pierce, where he was pastor for 13 years. 

In introducing Father McNally, Father Daniel Daza-Jaller, diocesan vocations director, said the presenter has been a priest for 50 years (39 in the Diocese of Palm Beach and 11 in the Archdiocese of Miami). Father McNally taught history at St. John Vianney Seminary in Miami, St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, for a total of 30 years. 

Father McNally’s talks focused on the colonial and frontier experience, 1565-1870; the diocesan experience, 1870-1984; and the Diocese of Palm Beach, before and after 1984. His emphasis was not just on the diocese but about Catholicism in the state of Florida, especially since 1870, when the Diocese of St. Augustine was formed, led by Bishop Augustin Verot.

Asked why he felt it’s helpful for seminarians to know local Catholic history, Father McNally said, “I just think it’s so important to put yourself in some sort of context. In other words, the church didn’t start when you arrived or when you were ordained or you got your first assignment. Something happened before you. You’re part of a legacy, and in Florida so much so. 

“So many people worked so hard and put their heart and soul into spreading the Gospel, building up communities of faith,” he said. “I think it’s really important to put your ministry in our present day in some sort of a social and historical context.”

Father McNally has written three books on Florida’s Catholic history — “Catholicism in South Florida, 1868-1968,” “Catholic Parish Life on Florida’s West Coast, 1860-1968,” and one about the second bishop of St. Augustine, “John Moore: Catholic Pastoral Leadership During Florida’s First Boom, 1877-1901.” The books are still available for purchase online. 

For information on vocations to the priesthood and religious life, contact Father Daza-Jaller, diocesan director of vocations and seminarians, at 561-775-9552 or, by visiting or following the office on Facebook and Instagram.