By Thomas Clark
Sunday was an exciting day for the Catholic Gator community. After years of hard work and applying for the necessary permits, the newly built Catholic Student Center at St. Augustine’s Parish in Gainesville was officially blessed by Bishop Felipe Estévez. As part of a special Mass, Bishop Estévez also celebrated the formal installation of Father David Ruchinski, longtime University of Florida chaplain, as the pastor of St. Augustine’s Parish.
Addressing a church packed with hundreds of UF students and community members, Bishop Estévez preached about the importance of prayer and of trusting in God’s will. There was also a somber moment as Bishop Estévez informed the congregation of the death of Father John Phillips of Holy Faith Parish, who passed away over the weekend.
After the homily, Bishop Estévez formally installed Father David Ruchinski as pastor of St. Augustine’s. Various parish councils were presented to the pastor as part of the installation rite, including the Hispanic Advisory Council, whom Fr. Ruchinski addressed in fluent Spanish, emphasizing his goal of meeting the needs of the many diverse members of the parish.
Immediately following the 5:30 p.m. Mass, the celebrants and members of the parish council gathered in the newly constructed student center across the street from the church. Years in the making, this center provides a gathering space for members of the Catholic chaplaincy at UF to meet for events and small groups. Bishop Estévez blessed the new space with holy water, and Father Ruchinski spoke about the long process of planning and building the new center, thanking the many members of the community who had made it possible.
“I marvel at Father David Ruchinski and his team – their great patience and endurance of many difficult years waiting for [the center’s] completion,” said Bishop Estévez.
Following the blessing ceremony, the Catholic Gators community gathered in the parish hall of St. Augustine’s to celebrate the installation of Father Ruchinski.
“This event is about two things – looking back and looking forward,” said Father Ruchinski after Mass. “We are grateful to all those who have come before us who have made this possible, and we also hope to leave a legacy for the future.”