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 Diocese of St. Augustine
On September 8, 1565, a small band of Spaniards celebrated Mass on the shores of north Florida in preparation for starting a settlement there. They named their new home St. Augustine in honor of the saint on whose feast day they sighted land. Thus were the seeds of Christianity first sown in North America.
St. Augustine is the site of the first permanent parish church, now the Cathedral Basilica. This cathedral was built between the years 1793-1797. Twelve large stained glass windows depict events in the life of St. Augustine of Hippo. Another large window, to the right of the front door, honors St. Cecelia, patron of music. The fourteen oil paintings of the Stations of the Cross are copies of those in the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican.
Each cross-beam bears the coat of arms of a bishop of St. Augustine. The murals throughout he cathedral are by Hugo Ohlms, a local artist. On the wall behind the main altar are three statues covered in gold leaf. The central figure is that of Christ Triumphant; the two smaller statues are of St. Peter and of St. Augustine. The crossed keys and triple-crowned tiara carved in white marble over the front door mark the cathedral as a Minor Basilica, an honor conferred by Pope Paul VI on December 4, 1976.
The famed Santa Fe Trail originated here. It was from here that Franciscan Missionaries began the trek North and West to proclaim the Good News. It was here that the first schools and hospitals were opened. It was not until March 11, 1870, that Florida, east of the Apalachicola River, was designated as the Diocese of St. Augustine. The growth of the Church in Florida from this Mother Diocese to six additional dioceses and more than two million Catholics is a significant part of the story of the Catholic Church in the United States.
Today, the Diocese of St. Augustine embraces 17 counties spanning the northeast section of Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. It covers 11,032 square miles and serves more than 171,000 registered Catholics.
The Rite of Election for members of the RCIA is usually held annually at the Cathedral. This ritual would be held there because a cathedral is the central church of a diocese as well as the bishop’s official church. The word cathedral comes from the Greek word cathedra, meaning chair. When a bishop is consecrated and then seated on the cathedra, his authority as chief educator of the diocese is established. This is an ancient ritual and the chair is an ancient symbol of teaching authority. Due to Covid – 19 and the need for safe distancing, we are at St. Joseph Parish this year.

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