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Northernmost parish proud of its mission

Priest and children

SEBASTIAN  |  Father Antony Pulikal, pastor of St. Sebastian Parish, is proud of his Catholic community at the far northern end of the Diocese of Palm Beach.

“We see ourselves as the first parish of the Diocese of Palm Beach, No. 1,” he said. “We are the gatekeepers of this beautiful diocese.”

The church stands tall in the city of Sebastian, located on U.S. Highway 1. It is surrounded by natural beauty, the Intracoastal Waterway, barrier islands, a state park and wildlife refuge. St. Sebastian also has a sister mission parish on the west side of Interstate 95, Our Lady of Guadalupe. “My associate, Father Sabas Mallya, is in charge of the mission,” Father Pulikal said. “Since both of us are bilingual, we work together well for the pastoral care of both the campuses.”

In July 2023, Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito assigned Father Pulikal from pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in West Palm Beach to St. Sebastian, following the retirement of Father John Morrissey, the pastor of 24 years.

“I am completing almost a year here at St. Sebastian,” Father Pulikal said. “Sebastian reminds me of India. (It is) exactly like the place where I was born, a fishing town, Kochi, in the state of Kerala, India, and very Catholic.”  

Asked about his calling to the priesthood, he said, “As Catholic boys growing up in India, we used to play church. There was an elderly woman, sick and homebound, unable to go to church, who used to come to our play Mass.

“She told me, ‘One day you will be a priest, and when you become one, in your first Mass, please pray for me.’” Father Pulikal credits that as “the first seed that was sown in my heart.”

Talking about his faith community, he said, “We are a vibrant and dynamic parish with many growing and thriving ministries.” Among the programs is a parish meal ministry, in which volunteers distribute nutritious meals to the needy. “This happens on each and every Thursday of the year,” Father Pulikal said. “We can sincerely say here at St. Sebastian, every Thursday is Thanksgiving day.”

Parishioners support the meal ministry with donations, and “every Thursday morning a group of volunteers come together to prepare 150 to 200 meals, based on the need,” he said. “And once they are ready, a second group of volunteers come around 11 a.m. to pick them up and deliver them to the needy.” Mark Jordan, maintenance supervisor, said, “It’s St. Sebastian’s meals on wheels.”

Joan and Bob Lapenna have been the main caretakers of St. Sebastian’s meal ministry — officially referred to as the St. Sebastian Full of Grace meal ministry — for the past 10 years. “We serve the food to our inbound parishioners, and it’s also an outreach program for people who are in need,” Joan said, adding that “everything is a calling that we do for the church: Feed my people.”    

The parish also has a growing altar server ministry, Father Pulikal said. “We have a brand-new altar server and I just installed her this morning, Charlotte Santuro. Charlotte just made her first holy Communion last Saturday and wanted to serve right away, so we installed her this morning.” Her brother Peter and sister Jane also are altar servers, he said.

Another vibrant organization at the parish is the St. Sebastian Council of Catholic Women. The council president, Barbara Andreas, said, “The CCW is an amazing group of Catholic women who care deeply about making a difference for our parish, our community and each other.”

Maria Saludo, a part-time resident originally from the Philippines, who also resides in Washington, D.C., was happy to find St. Sebastian. “It is the same patron saint from where I grew up in the Philippines,” she said. “Every 20th of January (St. Sebastian’s feast day), we have a fiesta, and here it is exactly the same.”

St. Sebastian is the patron saint of archers and athletes and those who desire a saintly death. He was also venerated as a protector from the bubonic plague and as a patron of plague victims.

For more information on St. Sebastian Parish and its ministries, call 772-589-5790 or visit the parish website,