St. Paul Parish - National Catholic Church in Belleview, FL

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St. Paul History

First Church

In 1944 many Polish-Americans began to settle in the Florida town of Belleview. They came because of work in industries related to World War II, which was raging at that time. Among these Polish-Americans were Polish National Catholics who desired to continue to worship God in the manner they had chosen, and to belong to the Church for which they had sacrificed so much. They petitioned the Right Reverend Leon Grochowski, Bishop Ordinary of the Western Diocese, to send them a priest who could help them to organize a parish to meet their spiritual needs. Bishop Grochowski sent them a very capable and zealous priest, the Reverend John Swierczewski, whom he later named to be the first pastor for the new St. Paul Parish.

The first organizational meeting, as well as subsequent meetings, took place in the homes of parishioners. The Sajdera, Gawronski, and Orzel families were most generous in inviting their fellow parishioners and their pastor to hold these important meetings in their homes. These homes also served as the original chapels where Fr. Swierczewski celebrated Holy Mass for the newly organized parish. Seeing the fervor of the Polish National Catholics to worship God, the Methodist Congregation of Belleview offered their church for services. This arrangement lasted until 1951 when St. Paul Parish built its own church facility on the property it had received as a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Michael Sajdera on South East 112th Street. Much help in building the church was given by Dan Nikols, Messrs, Tyburski, Placzek, Burnagiel, and others. The pews of the new church were donated by Grace Episcopal Church of Ocala, Florida as a gesture of Christian love and the inter-communion the two Churches enjoyed at that time. Altars were donated as a memorial gift by Edgar Roberts of the Roberts Funeral Home of Ocala and many other gifts came from Hiers Baxley Funeral Home of Belleview. The Right Reverend Leon Grochowski, Bishop Ordinary of the Western Diocese, dedicated the new church in December of 1951.

The first parish committee elected for St. Paul Parish was comprised of the following parishioners: Frank Kafara (First Chairman), Mrs. A. Sajdera, Mrs. W. Urzykowski, Mr. J. Burnagiel and Mr. Urzykowski.

The first parish organizations founded for the strengthening of the faith and life of the parish were the Ladies' Aid Society, the Men's Improvement Club, the Folk Dance Group, and the Echo Choir.

First Pastor

When Fr. John Swierczewski died suddenly on December 21, 1953, the parish was temporarily served by the Reverend John Siembida, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Miami, Florida. In 1954, the Reverend Joseph Blyn was appointed and accepted as pastor. In the 20 years of his leadership, the parish grew in membership and purchased a rectory and a tract of land next to the first church for possible future expansion. Fr. Blyn worked in many civic organizations in the Belleview community. Through his efforts and those of parishioner John Makowski, St. Paul Parish's parishioners decided to build a new and larger church building. It was dedicated in 1962 by the Right Reverend Francis C. Rowinski, Bishop Ordinary of the Western Diocese.

After Fr. Blyn's retirement in 1974, St. Paul Parish was served by a succession of pastors: the Reverends Marek Barski, John Siembida, Leszek Sokolowski, Zygmunt Medrek, Wlodzimierz Olkowicz, and John A. Sielchan.

In July 2000, Rev. Fr. Mark J. Niznik was assigned as Pastor of the parish.  Rev. Niznik was ordained on June 24, 2000 by the Most Rev. John Swantek, presiding Prime Bishop of the PNCC at the time.

Current Church

When Father Mark arrived, the parish membership was barely hanging on with 25 members that endured their last four months without a resident priest. As it was summer, the "snowbirds" were living up North and 14 people attended Father Mark’s first Mass at St. Paul Parish. Over the years, the dynamic preaching ability that God blessed upon Father Mark took root and his passion for Jesus Christ and salvation began to reach more people, one soul at a time. Today, membership has surpassed 200 people and the life of the parish is strong and active. The presence of the Holy Spirit is palpable as the Sacraments of the Church are administered to an amazing church family, always looking to add a brother or sister in Christ who may be seeking something special. Father Mark has brought a more updated and spirited Mass to the parish and we have found favor with God as the church’s music ministry is first rate among the worshipping communities. Father Mark attributes all successes to the commitment of glorifying God first and foremost.