Our history is not just a list of construction milestones. Looking past the dates noted and dollars spent, we find devoted priests, religious, and laity ministering to those in need and families coming together in worship. Going beyond facts and figures, we see children being baptized, sons and daughters attending school, couples getting married, and loved ones being laid to rest. More than buildings, ours is the ongoing story of God’s people in Boca Raton—men and women united by faith, with hope for the future, building a parish community through acts of charity and love.
St. Jude Parish began in 1979 when the Archdiocese of Miami approved plans to build a new church in Boca Raton. It originally was to be called St. Rita because the Enrico family had donated ten acres on the corner of Powerline and Palmetto in memory of their mother Rita. But around the same time, the Texaco Company had fifteen secluded acres off Toledo Road they wanted to exchange next to the YMCA. The diocese agreed to swap.
St. Jude’s first pastor was the Rev. Jack Totty. He was faced with the awesome task of constructing a church and a school—but he received unexpected assistance that seemed a godsend at the time. In the early 1980s, a local contractor was developing condos on SW 18th
Street. He decided to help with the construction and agreed to donate one million dollars for building the church if Fr. Totty could raise another million for the school. In return, he asked that the church be named St. Jude after his patron saint. The Miami Archdiocese asked the Enrico family if they would mind the change and they said “no,” so long as another church was named after their mother, Rita. That is how St. Rita’s in Wellington got its name.
St. Jude’s groundbreaking was held on the Feast of the Assumption in 1983. While the church was being built, parishioners attended Mass on Saturday afternoons at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Chapel. Sunday Mass was celebrated at the Lynn University Chapel and the Pope John Paul II High School gym. Weekday Mass was held at Fr. Totty’s home.
Disaster struck in 1984 during the middle of the construction when the contractor suddenly went bankrupt and the Archdiocese of Miami split into the Diocese of Palm Beach and the Archdiocese of Miami. The responsibility for the two million dollar construction debt fell squarely on St. Jude and the Diocese of Palm Beach.
By 1985, the school building had still not been completed, so the parish rented out a house called “The Mansion” in Deerfield Beach on Lyons Road where classes could be held while construction was being finished. Fr. Totty’s vision for the school was to call it St. Jude Academy with only 25 students to a class. He wanted to keep it independent of the church. He felt the cost of educating the children should be borne solely by the parents, but the diocese did not agree; and the school became a parish-wide endeavor. Upon the retirement of Fr. Totty, Fr. Daniel Barrett became the second pastor of St. Jude. In 1986, St. Jude School was dedicated.
Through hard work and the donations of time, talent, and treasure by parishioners, the church finally opened in 1986. The first Mass was celebrated on Christmas Eve.
Two years later, Fr. Timothy Lynch became the pastor and was assisted by Fr. Chris Allen and the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters. Fr. Michael Driscoll and Fr. Timothy Johnson joined St. Jude’s family in 1992. But in all this time, the building debt had not been paid. With interest, it had grown to a staggering $3.4 million.
Fortunately for St. Jude, Fr. Tim Lynch was able to negotiate a deal with the diocese in which they would freeze the interest if the church would agree to pay $20,000 a month to the debt. As of 2002, the generous donations of parishioners had whittled the bill down to less than $700,000.
In 1992, Fr. Tim Lynch built the picnic pavilion and conference room. In 1994, the parish came under the care of the Carmelite Order with Fr. Michael Driscoll as pastor. All the while, the school was growing, and in 1995 the St. Jude preschool was added. At this time Fr. Michael decided to double the classes so that more students could attend. This meant the addition of modular classrooms. In 2002, the final section of the school was completed and the modular classrooms removed.
Thanks to the stewardship of our caring parishioners and the leadership of our dedicated religious, St. Jude was named one of the outstanding Catholic parishes in the nation in 2001. It was also recognized by The National Catholic Reporter (a national Catholic weekly) as one of the top twenty-five parishes in the United States.
On our silver anniversary, Fr. Michael Driscoll formally announced the desire to build a Parish Family Life Center to facilitate the work of our many ministries. This facility, which has been the desire of our parishioners for many years, would include parish offices, meeting rooms for our expanding ministries, a banquet hall and a kitchen to cater to the needs of our parishioners and school students.
The groundbreaking, which took place in the summer of 2011, was the beginning of a new chapter for our parish. Fr. Michael Kissane was installed as pastor and took over the responsibility of overseeing the completion of “The Dream,” scheduled for September 2012.