YEARS 1962 – 1969
Incarnation Catholic Church started with the purchase of 16 acres of land at West Hillsborough Avenue and Webb Road by the Diocese of St. Augustine. In 1962 the area was established as a Mission of St. Lawrence Parish and its Pastor, Father Laurence Higgins, was responsible for obtaining a frame building from MacDill Air Force Base for use as a temporary church. In April 1962 Father Higgins celebrated the first Mass at the Mission with 105 present.
In 1963 Father Patrick O’Sullivan was assigned to the Mission and on November 7,1963 the Mission became the Church of the Incarnation with Father O’Sullivan as the appointed pastor. There were 200 families within its boundaries. And so we came to life …
In our first year we began our efforts to establish a school. In September, 1964 Incarnation School started with 4 office type trailers, 4 teachers, 4 grades, and 60 pupils. The following Spring our first school building of 4 classrooms was completed and was dedicated in March,1965.
In 1966 we continued to grow and learn. Our small Church became more and more crowded as the Town and Country area became a popular residential area. A small choir with a school teacher serving as Director and Pianist started, as well as other Parish groups.
In 1967 a house was purchased on Tanglewood Lane for use as a convent. That summer, three Sisters of St. Francis arrived to staff our small school. In the fall of 1967 construction was started on a new Parish Church, with Msgr. John Scully ceremoniously groundbreaking for the provisional church.
Our infancy was to end in 1968. On May 8th, Pope Paul VI established the new Diocese of St. Petersburg with Bishop Charles McLaughlin installed as the first Bishop. On May 26,1968, our interim Church was dedicated, also in December, 1968, our second classroom building was completed.
As our infancy ended, we had a newly constructed Church, a two classroom building school with three Sisters and four lay teachers; an eleven woman and six man choir directed by an Air Force wife with a teacher as organist; a CCD program with a volunteer leader and the teachers; a Holy Name Society; the Ladies Guild; an Ushers Club; a Parent/ Faculty Association; a Youth Club; an Altar Boy Society; and Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops. Our annual carnival started in November of 1964 with 17 booths manned by school parents and which netted a profit of $1,106.00.
Incarnation Parish was up on its feet and starting to move!
YEARS 1969 – 1985
As the 1970′s arrived, Incarnation Parish continued to grow and add more activities. We finally added our eighth grade in 1970 and in June,1971, our school held its first graduation.
In 1973 Father John Flood became our second Pastor and our music liturgy increased with the hiring of our first choir director. Our parish membership increased from 600 families to more than 2000..
In 1975 we were assigned our third Pastor, Father Brendan Muldoon.
As the 1970′s closed and the 1980′s arrived, we matured as a Parish. Our parishioners became more and more involved in parish activities. Our organizations became more professional and active. Our music liturgy took a leap forward with two adult choirs, a children’s choir, and a bell choir. All our religious programs began expansion to meet the needs of our parishioners. The Parish Staff was increased to properly fulfill these needs. In 1981, Father Michael O’Reilly was appointed our fourth Pastor.
It became apparent that our growth and our needs required that expansion was necessary. We added some buildings, but our greatest need was for a permanent church. On December 9,1984 ground breaking was held for this new permanent Church. On December 14, 1985, the Parish family came together to dedicate our new Church with Bishop W. Thomas Larkin. Pickel studios crafted several items for the church. The risen Christ, which measures eight feet in height, was hand carved in Northern Italy. The life-size statues of Joseph and Mary with Child were carved by the same craftsman.
In our maturing years we continued to learn and grow. We kept in mind our infancy and the true purpose of our Parish … to know and serve Our Lord.
1986 AND BEYOND
Once we had a permanent Church, it was realized that growth must continue as our needs increased. In 1986, work was started to convert the interim Church into a Parish Activity Center. This work was completed in December of 1987 and the Center has had active use by our School and Parish groups, our Family Life activities, and for several religious musicals.
In 1989 Fr. Eric Hunter became the fifth pastor of Incarnation Church.
In 1997 our school facilities were expanded to accommodate the needs of our upper grades. The old social hall no longer could properly serve the church or school and was removed. The new school facility was dedicated in May, 1998.
On June 2, 2001, Bishop Lynch rededicated our church that was in need of renovation. The new facility not only corrected defects to the old structure, but it also provided a worship space of beauty and reverence. Liturgical elements were incorporated with the addition of the baptismal immersion pool, new church furnishings, stained glass windows, and the chapel of reservation for the Blessed Sacrament.
Our present membership is approximately 3,700 families. Included in our parish is a large and active Hispanic population ministered specifically by a Spanish speaking priest. Two Spanish masses, Fridays at 6:30 pm and Sundays at 1:30 pm, serve the Spanish speaking families. Many ministries serve our parish — with our RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) program for those individuals interested in becoming members of our Catholic faith, providing the way to join our faith community.