Bishop Felipe J. Estévez of the Diocese of St. Augustine celebrates his Golden Jubilee (50 years of priesthood) this year.
Bishop Estévez was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to the United States as part of Operation Pedro Pan as a teenager. He was ordained a priest in Fort Wayne, Ind. on May 30, 1970, for the Diocese of Matanzas, Cuba. But due to the political unrest in Cuba, he was unable to return to his homeland as a priest. He began his service to the church as an associate pastor at Guascoran Parish in Honduras. He then taught at two seminaries in Honduras before joining the faculty of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla. in 1975. Five years later, he returned to the seminary as its president. He also served as pastor of St. Agatha Parish in Miami and campus minister for Florida International University, from 1987-2001, before he was named an Auxiliary Bishop of Miami in 2003. On April 27, 2011, Bishop Estévez was appointed the tenth Bishop of St. Augustine.
This week, Bishop Estévez received a letter from Pope Francis congratulating him on the milestone. The letter was written in Latin and included an Apostolic Blessing. The English translation reads as follows:
“As we recall the golden jubilee of his priestly ordination, we lovingly rejoice in this joyous event and in his enduring pastoral zeal, carried out with a serene and constant desire for the spiritual good of the faithful and of his priests, especially his vigorous fervor with regard to helping the disadvantaged, the migrants, and those afflicted by storms. We wish from Christ the Good Shepherd, ‘who loved them to the end,’ divine grace for him and for his flock, and we lovingly bestow upon him Our Apostolic Blessing, through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles and of Saint Augustine, and we likewise ask him to pray that we may have the strength properly to discharge the arduous Petrine Office.”
Three other priests of the Diocese of St. Augustine celebrate milestone anniversaries this year. Father Marek Dzien, pastor of St. Madeleine Sophie Parish in High Springs and Father Pablo Fuentes, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Interlachen both celebrate 25 years of priesthood. In addition to Bishop Estévez, Msgr. Simon Peter Ignacio, a chaplain at St. Edward Chapel at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, celebrates 50 years of priesthood.