As a Christ-centered Catholic community, Saint William Parish will respond to the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of God's people through active programs to address the issues of spiritual life, social justice and the needs of our youth. The primary concerns of our parish are: Spiritual Life and Worship, Social Ministry, and Youth & Young Adult Ministries.
Saint William parish was established on October 2, 1973. Father Dominick O'Dwyer was appointed Pastor of the newly created parish which was named for St. William of Vercelli. The parish began meeting at Seagate Elementary School and moved several times during its formative years.
The first Mass was celebrated at Seagate Elementary School on October 7, 1973. By 1974 the parish consisted of 616 families; and by December of 1977, when the site for the church building was approved, Saint William Parish had grown to a membership of 980 families.
Following a highly successful fundraising campaign, groundbreaking took place on August 12, 1979, and construction was completed in October of the following year. The new church building was dedicated by Bishop John J. Nevins, then the Auxiliary Bishop of Miami, on November 30, 1980.
In 1982, the Seagate Baptist Church property on Seagate Drive was purchased and later became the home of the Saint William Ministry Center.
Father O'Dwyer served the parish for nine years until 1982, at which time 1,800 families were registered. Father Neil Flemming became the next Pastor, followed by Father John Roarke in 1992. In 1995, Father Joseph Stearns began what was to be his thirteen year period as Pastor of Saint William Parish. Under his leadership, the parish continued to grow to 3,200 families.
In 2008, Father George Ratzmann became Pastor and oversaw the renovation and building of our current church building. The new worship space was dedicated on Dec. 23, 2012 by Bishop Frank Dewane. At present, Saint William Parish has approximately 3,500 families registered.
History of Pastors
Rev. Dominick O'Dwyer 1973 - 1982
Rev. Neil Flemming 1982 - 1992
Rev. John Rourke 1992 - 1995
Rev. Joseph Stearns 1995 - 2007
Rev. Robert Murphy (Administrator) 2007 - 2008
Rev. George Ratzmann 2008 - Present
St. William of Vercelli
The founder of the Hermits of Monte Vergine, or Williamites, born 1085; died 25 June, 1142. He was the son of noble parents, both of whom died when he was still a child, and his education was entrusted to one of his kinsmen. At the age of fifteen he made up his mind to renounce the world and lead a life of penance. With this end in view, he went on a pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella, and, not content with the ordinary hardships of such a pilgrimage, he encircled his body with iron bands to increase his suffering. After this journey he started on a pilgrimage the Holy Land, but it was revealed to him that he would be of greater service to God if he remained in Italy. He built himself a hut on Monte Vergine, wishing to become a hermit and live in solitude, but it was not long before many people flocked to him to put themselves under his guidance, being attracted by the sanctity of his life and the many miracles which he performed. Soon a monastery was built, and by 1119 the Congregation of Monte Vergine was founded. St. William lived at Monte Vergine until the brethren began to murmur against him, saying that the life was too austere, that he gave too much in alms, and so on. He therefore decided to leave Monte Vergine and thus take away from the monks the cause of their grievances. Roger I of Naples took him under his patronage, and the saint founded many monasteries, both of men and of women, in that kingdom. So edified was the king with the saint's sanctity of life and the wisdom of his counsels that, in order to have him always near him, he built a monastery opposite his palace at Salerno. Knowing by special revelation that his end was at hand, William retired to his monastery of Gugieto, where he died, and was buried in the church. We celebrate his memorial on June 25.
The Diocese of Venice
Saint William is a part of a larger, local family of faith provided over by a successor of the Apostles, like all other parishes. Saint William is a part of the Diocese of Venice under the leadership of our Chief shepherd, the Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane.
The history of the Church of Florida reflects the rapid development of our state. Until 1958, when the Diocese of Miami was formed, the entire state, except for a small section of the eastern most portion of the panhandle, was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Saint Augustine. Ten years later, two additional Diocese were established, the Diocese of Orlando and the Diocese of St. Petersburg. In 1975, the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee was formed, and in 1984, the Diocese of Venice and the Diocese of Palm Beach. Thus, in the space of 25 years, the Catholic Church has grown from one to seven diocese and now forms an Ecclesiastical Province with Miami and the Archdiocese.
When the Diocese of Venice was established in 1984, the Most Reverend John J. Nevins, the Auxiliary Bishop of Miami, and a native New Yorker, was named our first Bishop. The Cathedral seat in Venice is dedicated to the Epiphany of our Lord. Our Lady of Mercy and Saint Mark are the co-patrons of our Diocese.
The Diocese of Venice is located on Florida's Gulf Coast and stretches north and south from Palmetto to Everglades City, and from Avon Park to Moore Haven in the center of the state. It is comprised of Collier, Hendry, Glades, Highlands, Manatee, Hardee, Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto, and Lee County. The Diocese is divided into two Vicariates and four Deaneries. On July 25, 2006, Bishop Frank J. Dewane was installed as the second bishop of the Diocese of Venice.
For a more in-depth history of the Diocese of Venice, Click here.