Bishop Felipe Estévez blessed and dedicated the Father Felix Varela Center, 5110 Lourcey Road, on Tuesday, May 28. The Varela Center houses the Office of Development and Stewardship and the Tribunal for the Diocese of St. Augustine, as well as a new chapel, called the Chapel of Our Lady of Charity.

The Varela Center building was donated by the Cuban America Club of Jacksonville in 2010 to Bishop Victor Galeone. Renovations to the now 7,000-square-foot building began about six months ago and cost $600,000 to complete.

In his blessing, Bishop Estévez thanked God for the hard work and dedication that went in to the renovation of the Varela Center. He said a special blessing for the chapel’s altar.

“Here, may your children gather around your altar, celebrating the memorial of the Paschal Lamb and be fed at the table of Christ’s blood and body,” he said.

In his dedication speech for the building, Bishop Estévez thanked the Cuban community for their donation.

“The diocese is committed to the full stewardship and the full protection of this building and to assure its maintenance in the best possible way,” he said.

The Varela Center is named for Father Felix Varela y Morales, who was born in Havana, Cuba in 1788, but grew up in St. Augustine, Fla. He was a great educator in Cuba and was eventually named Vicario General of the Diocese of New York, where he ministered for more than 25 years. He lived out his retirement years in St. Augustine, where he died in 1853. He was declared venerable in 2012 and is currently being considered for canonization.

Bishop Estévez says prays over the building. (photos by St. Augustine Catholic/Brandon Duncan)
(From left) Barbara Scholtz, Bishop Estévez and Father Manuel Puga (photos by St. Augustine Catholic/Brandon Duncan)
Bishop Estévez cuts the ribbon of the new Felix Varela Center. (photos by St. Augustine Catholic/Brandon Duncan)
Bishop Estévez rubs oil into the altar of the Chapel of Our Lady of Charity during his blessing. (photos by St. Augustine Catholic/Brandon Duncan)
(From left) Guido Valdes, Rita Novoa, Father James Boddie and Emiliano Navarro enjoy refreshments at the reception following the Varela Center dedication. (photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Brandon Duncan)
Bishop Estévez dedicates the newly renovated building. (photos by St. Augustine Catholic/Brandon Duncan)
The Chapel of Our Lady of Charity. (photos by St. Augustine Catholic/Brandon Duncan)
Bishop Estévez begins his blessing of the Varela Center. (photos by St. Augustine Catholic/Brandon Duncan)