Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

St. Lawrence parish in Tampa funds first new Catholic church in Cuba in 60 years

Faith now counts among the ties that bind Tampa and Cuba thanks to the completion soon of the first new Roman Catholic Church in the island nation since its government embraced the atheist tenets of Marxism nearly 60 years ago.

The new church in the city of Sandino at the western tip of Cuba is being funded entirely with $95,000 in donations collected by St. Lawrence Catholic Church of Tampa.

"We are very happy," said Father Ramon Hernandez of St. Lawrence, 5225 N Himes Ave., who led the effort. "We look forward to the inaugural mass."

Father Cirilo Castro, pastor of the new church, visited Tampa earlier this month with an update on the progress of construction. Only the roof remained to install, Hernandez said, and the work was expected to wrap up by the end of June.

Pews, an altar and other features will be added during the next few months with the first Mass scheduled for January or February.

The one-story, 800-square-foot building will have a capacity of 200 and is the first ever church erected in Sandino, a town of about 40,000 in coastal Pinar del Río province, where fishing, coffee and citrus are main industries.

It will be called the Parish of Divine Mercy of Sandino.

Until now, local Catholics have worshiped in private homes.

"Cuba is changing," Hernandez said.

When Fidel Castro and his revolution ushered in Marxism in the early 1960s, the open practice of religion ended in Cuba. Church properties were nationalized and religious leaders exiled.

Hernandez, born in Cuba in 1945, would say Mass in homes until he left his native country in 1980.

But in 1991, the Cuban Communist Party removed atheism as a prerequisite for membership. A year later, the party declared Cuba a secular state and in 1998, just before a historic visit by Pope John Paul II, Christmas was made a national holiday.

Sixty to 70 percent of Cubans are now Roman Catholic, according to a 2017 report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal commission.

"I see the stories of persecution of freedom of religion in Cuba but we now have a mixture of religions," José Ramón Cabañas, Cuba's ambassador to the United States, told the Tampa Bay Times during his visit to St. Petersburg last week.

That includes Mormonism and Islam, he said — religions that had no foothold in Cuba until recent years.

"And we have done a lot of refurbishing of not only Catholic churches but temples and we have a synagogue in Havana," Cabañas said.

Still, the religious freedom commission reports that strides made by the Cuban government have come amid continuing restrictions.

The government still must approve any processions or events held outside religious buildings, for example. In addition, religious leaders who speak out against the government are harassed and temporarily detained, the report says.

The idea to build a church in Sandino dates to 2010 when Father Tom Morgan, then-pastor of St. Lawrence church, advised Hernandez of his interest in forming a spiritual partnership with Cuba.

Hernandez reached out to Father Castro in Cuba and together they sought permission to build a new church.

The Cuban government approved the necessary permits then sold the land for a "cheap symbolic price," Hernandez said.

St. Lawrence held at least two special collections a year through 2016, and individuals and organizations from around the country contributed money as well.

Tampa's historic ties to Cuba date to the 1880s with the establishment here of cigar factories using Cuban tobacco. The ties were strengthened soon afterward when the city played host to José Martí, a leader of Cuba's fight for independence from Spain.

Building a new church in Sandino for just $95,000 may seem like something of a miracle, Hernandez said with a laugh, but not counted in the cash total is the donation of supplies and many hours of volunteer labor.

Now, at least two other new Roman Catholic Churches are under construction in Cuba — one in Havana and another in Santiago. Both are funded by parishes outside the island, Hernandez said.

"The gate is now open," he said. "I hope more come."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

 
Comments
When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

TAMPA — Disbelief will eventually give way to acceptance.The Lightning isn't there yet.It isn't there yet in a lot of ways.Will it ever be?Just wondering.Really, what guarantees are there?Late Wednesday night, Washington Capitals captain A...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Behind the deal: $52 million boutique hotel coming to Ybor City started with cafe con leche at La Tropicana Cafe

Behind the deal: $52 million boutique hotel coming to Ybor City started with cafe con leche at La Tropicana Cafe

TAMPA — Joe Capitano Sr. invested in the 1400 block of E Seventh Avenue in 1985, never doubting the huge potential of the property for Ybor City.But the deal to build a $52 million boutique hotel on the site didn’t start to come together until six ye...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays tripling down on starting relievers vs. Orioles this weekend: Romo, Stanek, Romo

Rays tripling down on starting relievers vs. Orioles this weekend: Romo, Stanek, Romo

The Rays aren't kidding about being serious in using relievers to start games.After unveiling the strategy last weekend against the Angels, manager Kevin Cash said they planned to use it again, and he made that official on Thursday, naming Sergio Rom...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Riverview

Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Riverview

RIVERVIEW — Sprouts Farmers Market is opening a new location in Riverview, the chain announced Thursday. The new store will be located at Summerfield Crossing Shopping Center, though Sprouts did not have a specific opening date.The announcement comes...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco sheriff: Man stabbed driver, kicked officer

Pasco sheriff: Man stabbed driver, kicked officer

DADE CITY — A 42-year-old man was arrested Tuesday night after the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said he jumped on top of a car, stabbed the driver multiple times and then kicked an officer.Roscoe James faces charges of attempted murder, two counts ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Electric to shut down Big Bend coal unit that killed 5

Tampa Electric to shut down Big Bend coal unit that killed 5

APOLLO BEACH — Tampa Electric Co. is taking a big step away from coal. The Tampa-based utility is spending $853 million to convert its coal-fired Unit 1 at its Big Bend Power Station to natural gas and retire coal-fired Unit 2 in 2021.Five workers di...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs union rep Ali Marpet questions legality of the NFL’s new anthem policy

Bucs union rep Ali Marpet questions legality of the NFL’s new anthem policy

Bucs offensive lineman Ali Marpet questioned the legality of the NFL's new  policy that requires players to stand for the national anthem if they are on the field during the performance but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
USF wins doubleheader to stay alive in AAC tourney

USF wins doubleheader to stay alive in AAC tourney

Its American Athletic Conference tournament hopes flat-lining, USF's baseball team has spent the past 30 or so hours reviving itself with plain ol' CPR.Clutch Pitching and Resolve.Needing back-to-back wins on a humid Clearwater day to remain alive, t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
One day after fatal accident, Tampa moves to lower speed limit on Bayshore Blvd

One day after fatal accident, Tampa moves to lower speed limit on Bayshore Blvd

TAMPA — Tampa officials said Thursday they are reducing the speed limit on Bayshore Boulevard, one day after a mother was struck and killed by a speeding car while pushing her 21-month-old daughter across the city’s signature street.Starting Friday, ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
A white supremacist killed her twin. Why did she forgive him?

A white supremacist killed her twin. Why did she forgive him?

As a fifth-grader, Aleesha Mance wrote an essay about her sister’s killer, explaining how peer pressure and drugs led the 17-year-old to make a deadly choice. In high school, she searched for his name online. She read news articles about a tee...
Updated: 3 hours ago