The Early Years: 1962 – 1969
Incarnation Catholic Church was 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 Incarnation Catholic Church came to life.
In its first year, efforts began to establish a school. In September 1964, Incarnation School started with four office-type trailers, four teachers, four grades, and sixty pupils. The following Spring, the first school building of four classrooms was completed and dedicated in March1965.
In 1966, the small Church continued to grow and learn. It 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 the 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.
Incarnation’s infancy stage ended in 1968. On May 8th of that year, 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. Later that year in December, the second classroom building was completed.
As Incarnation developed, it 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 teachers; a Holy Name Society; a 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 1964 with 17 booths staffed by school parents; it netted $1,106.00.
Growth Continues: 1970 – 1985
As the 1970′s arrived, Incarnation Parish continued to grow and add more activities. It finally added an eighth grade in 1970 and in June1971 the school held its first graduation.
In 1973, Father John Flood became the second Pastor and the music liturgy increased with the hiring of its first choir director. Parish membership increased from 600 families to more than 2000.
In 1975, the Church was assigned its third Pastor, Father Brendan Muldoon.
As the 1970′s closed and the 1980′s arrived, the Parish matured, with parishioners becoming more and more involved in parish activities. Organizations became more professional and active. The music liturgy took a leap forward with two adult choirs, a children’s choir, and a bell choir. All religious programs began expansion to meet parishioners’ needs. The Parish Staff was increased to properly fulfill these needs. In 1981, Father Michael O’Reilly was appointed Incarnation’s fourth Pastor.
The Church’s growth and needs required expansion. Some new buildings were added, but the 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 with Biship W. Thomas Larkin to dedicate the new Church. 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 its maturing years, Incarnation continued to learn and grow, always keeping in mind the true purpose of our Parish -to know and serve Our Lord.
1986 To Date
Once a permanent Church was established, our needs continued to increase. In 1986, work was started to convert the interim Church into a Parish Activity Center. This work was completed in December 1987 and the Center has been actively used by the School and parish groups, by Family Life activities, and for several religious musicals.
In 1989 Fr. Eric Hunter became the fifth pastor of Incarnation Church.
In 1997, the school facilities were expanded to accommodate the needs of upper grades. The old social hall could no longer properly serve the church or school and was removed. The new school facility was dedicated in May 1998.
On June 2, 2001, Bishop Lynch re-dedicated our church that was in need of renovation. The new facility not only corrected defects to the old structure, but 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.
Today, membership is approximately 3,700 families. Included in the parish is a large and active Hispanic population ministered specifically by a Spanish speaking priest. Two Spanish masses, Fridays at 6:30 p.m. and Sundays at 1:30 p.m., serve Spanish-speaking families. Many ministries serve the Parish — with our RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) program, for those individuals interested in becoming members of the Catholic faith, providing the way to join our faith community.