History of St. Francis of Assisi Parish

St. Francis of Assisi Church originated in 1962 as a mission of St. Mary of the Lake, Eustis, Florida. The first services were held at Apopka Memorial High School with Fr. Michael McReynolds as the celebrant in 193. Fr. Thadeus McHugh served the growing community until Fr. William Trainer, who was also pastor of St. Mary of the Lake, succeeded him. Services were then held at the Veterans Memorial Home on Park Avenue for 200 families until 1967 when the Apopka Catholic Mission of the Diocese of St. Augustine was built on Hwy. 441. Fr. Joseph P. Moran was assigned to the church at that time, as was Fr. Paul Couming. They served until 1972 when the Franciscans staffed the church.

It was named St. Francis of Assisi for the medieval founder of the Franciscan movement. Fr. Arthur Butler, OFM, as pastor and Fr. Finian Riley, OFM, of the migrant ministry of the Diocese of Orlando served the English and Spanish speaking communities in the area. In 1974, a new rectory was dedicated. It now serves as the Parish Office. The Parish Center was dedicated in 1979 and, as the parish grew too large for the church, was used for Mass on weekends. Fr. Thomas J. Burns, OFM, became pastor in 1979 after serving as assistant pastor for one year. In 1988, a new church seating approximately 630 was dedicated. The location, well away from the highway, provides a peaceful and prayerful setting for liturgy and reflection. Fr. Burns was appointed pastor of All Souls Catholic Church in Sanford in February 1989. Sr. Carol Gaeke, OP, served as Pastoral Assistant from October 1979 to June 1988.

In March 1989, Fr. Joseph Kiernan, OFM, who had been serving as Associate Pastor since July 1985, became pastor and ministered to the parishioners until June 1996. Assisting Fr. Kiernan were Fr. William Bried (January 1990 to August 1993) and Fr. Vernard Murphy (September 1993 to June 1996).

Fr. Clyde Bonar was appointed Pastor in 1996 and remained until his retirement in March 2003. Fr. Tito Rojas served as Associate Pastor from July 1996 to September 2000. Fr. Jose Bautista, Parochial Vicar, assisted Fr. Bonar from September 2000 and was appointed Parish Administrator when Fr. Bonar retired until he was appointed pastor at St. Catherine of Sienna in St. Cloud in May 2003. Sr. Teresa Lavelle, OSB, was Pastoral Associate from January 1997 to her death in November 2002.

Fr. Timothy LaBo was appointed pastor in June 2003. Fr. Humberto Jana joined St. Francis as the minister to the Hispanic community; he shared his ministry with St. Francis and St. Andrew parishes. In March 2004, Fr. Humberto returned to St. Andrew full time and Fr. Carlos Bedoya was appointed Associated Pastor on a full time basis. Fr. Percival DeVera (Fr. Val) joined St. Francis in June of 2007. In August of 2011 Fr. Timothy LaBo was assigned pastor of Holy Reedeemer Catholic Church and Fr. Val was also assigned to Holy Reedeemer Catholic Church. Fr. Charles Deeney was appointed pastor of St. Francis in August of 2011 and Fr. Tomas Hurtado was appointed Associate Pastor of St. Francis in August of 2011. They continue to be with us to this day.