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All Souls Catholic Parish History

2008 Church

1937 Church and 1887 Church (bottom)

The photographs directly above and below this entry are of the first All Souls Catholic Church for which the cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1887 by Father Felix Prosper Swembergh as part of the grand Independence Day celebration that brought thousands from far away cities to the little town of Sanford on Lake Monroe.

The church was completed around November 1887, shortly after the death of the beloved Father Swembergh who died of Yellow Fever on October 31, 1887, caring for the sick and dying in Tampa. This is based on an article in the Florida Times Union dated October 27, 1887: “The Catholic Church at Sanford will soon be completed. It will be one of the handsomest of the state.” It would certainly have been amazing if the church had been completed in time for All Soul’s Day 1887, however, the actual date of completion has yet to be found.

The first church was burned to the ground in the early morning hours of January 25, 1932. The first fire alarm came in at 4:30 a.m. and within minutes the fire department was on the scene. Due to wind shifting, the rectory caught fire as well and was nearly destroyed. Everything in the church burned to the ground but church records were saved. Some bystanders helped save some of the furniture in the rectory and removed it to the former school / convent for safety.

This rare photographic postcard above, shows the rectory (built in early 1911 for the first resident pastor Father Patrick J. “PJ” Bresnahan), first church (constructed in 1887) and convent/school (completed by May of 1912 for the Sisters of Mercy and their St. Anne’s School) as they stood prior to the fire of January 25, 1932. The photo below shows the rectory after the fire. You will note that there is nothing left of the church but the foundation bricks visible to the right of the rectory in the photograph.

LOOK under IMAGES below for a closer view.

The photo below was taken at the time of the church fire on January 25, 1932 by the Sanford Fire Department. It shows what was called at the time the Social Hall. It was the building completed in May 1912 that housed the Sisters of Mercy and their St. Anne’s School, as reported in the May 10, 1912, Tampa Tribune: “The convent and home for the Sisters of Mercy that has been built on the property of the Catholic Church, in the enclosure with the church, is so near completion that the sisters, who are conducting the school, have moved in, and the children are receiving instruction in the new building, which, from the exterior, seems to be ample for use as a school and also a home.”

LOOK under IMAGES below for a closer view.

Despite the fact that Sanford’s citizens keenly felt the ill effects of the Great Depression, the church was rebuilt and was dedicated on July 4, 1937, the 50th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone for the first church.

The 1937 church, now referred to as the Historic Chapel, still stands on land purchased by Bishop John Moore in 1887 in Sanford between 8th and 9th Streets and Oak and Myrtle Avenues.

In 1965, there were 350 families in the parish and the parish boundary lines were: North, Lake Monroe; East, St. Johns River; South, Township 25 line going west from the St. Johns River to Sanford Avenue extended, Sanford Avenue north to Onora Road; Onora Road west to Lake Ada, north from Lake Ada to Twenty-fifth Street, west to Paola Road extended to Wekiva River; West, the Wekiva River. (Parish boundary information from: Catholic Parishes of Florida Histories, Univ. of Florida Smathers Libraries, Aisle 23/D/5-6, Box 4-5, Michael Gannon, 1965)

The third church was completed in 2008 and dedicated in August of that year.






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All Souls Catholic Church 1887 and 1937
Photographs of All Souls Catholic Church in Sanford, Florida. The bottom photo is that of the first church for which the cornerstone was...
Post Card - All Souls Catholic Church, rectory, school circa 1914
Postcard of All Souls Catholic Church, rectory, and parochial school circa 1914 between 9th and 8th street on Oak Avenue.   Black and white...
Parochial Residence of Father Bresnahan
Photograph and article in the Sanford Herald, April 28, 1911, no page number, last page, cols. 1-2. According to the Sanford Herald  article...
Father Felix Prosper Swembergh
Photograph affixed to card with this inscription: Our Martyr Priest who died in Tampa, October 31, 1887. From the Mahoney Collection donated...
Diploma All Souls Catholic School 1957
All Souls Catholic School diploma to member of the   second    class to graduate the ninth grade.  The graduates  includ...
All Souls Catholic Church - Sanford, Florida circa 1920
Color postcard of All Souls Catholic Church in Sanford, Florida circa 1920. The cornerstone  for the church was placed by Father Felix Prosper...
All Souls Catholic School - Ninth Grade Graduates 1959
Students graduating from ninth grade at All Souls Catholic School in Sanford, Florida are featured in the  Thursday, June 4, 1959 edition...
All Souls Catholic School - School Addition 1959
Photograph and article published in The Florida Catholic on July 3, 1959, p.1, heralding the ground breaking for the school addition at...
All Souls Catholic School - Good Citizenship Award
In May 1967, students at All Souls Catholic School in Sanford were the sole Florida recipients of the Good Citizenship Award from...
All Souls Catholic School - Basketball Champions 1974
All Souls Catholic School basketball team claimed First Place in the Orlando Diocesan Championship Basketball Tournament in 1974. The March 15, 1974...
Sisters of Christian Charity - All Souls Catholic School 1961
The Sisters of Christian Charity taught children at All Souls Catholic School in Sanford for many years beginning with the opening of...
All Souls Catholic School - Sisters Leaving 1969
A photograph of All Soul's  Pastor Father William T. Keane and the Sisters of Christian Charity  were featured in the June 13,...
All Souls Catholic Church - 2008 Church
Image of the third All Souls Catholic Church located on Highway 46 in Sanford, Florida, dedicated in 2008. VIEW THE 2008 DEDICATION ALBUM
All Souls Catholic Church - Social Hall 1932
This is a copy  of a photograph from fire department records  at the Sanford Museum  showing the  All Souls Catholic Church Social...
All Souls Catholic Parish - Rectory
This is a photograph from Fire Department records at the Sanford Museum showing the original rectory which was located on the southen...
All Souls Catholic Church Destroyed by Fire - 1932
Front page of the afternoon edition of the Evening Reporter Star on Monday, January 25, 1932, with headline "Sanford Church Burns."  The...
All Souls Catholic Church - Doyle's Hall
Photocopy from the Sanford Herald  of a postcard  created to commemorate the July 4, 1887 celebration in Sanford, Florida that saw thousands...
All Souls Catholic Church - Postcard circa 1950
Color photographic postcard of the 1937 All Souls Catholic Church at the corner of 9th and Oak in Sanford. This church sits...
All Souls Catholic Church - May Crowning
This   is a photograph of  the  May Day Queen and her court  standing on the steps of All Souls Catholic Church in...
All Souls Catholic Church - Historic Chapel circa 1989
Photograph of All Souls Catholic Church  from the front cover of the 1989 Parish Album. This church is now referred to as...
All Souls Catholic Church - Historic Chapel - 1978 Parish Album
Two photographs from the 1978 All Souls Parish Album featuring the 1937 church - now referred to as the "Historic Chapel" with...
Father Richard Lyons - 35th Anniversary of Ordination
Father Richard Lyons, All Souls pastor who made the dream of having a Catholic School at All Souls a reality, celebrated his...
All Souls Catholic Church - 4th of July Programme 1887
Transcription of the  4th of July Celebration Programme from Sanford, Florida in 1887. The laying of the cornerstone for the Catholic Church...
All Souls Catholic Church - Laying of the Cornerstone July 4, 1887
The Daily  Journal, July 5, 1887 article about the laying of the cornerstone for the Catholic Church in Sanford. The Daily Journal, Sanford,...
All Souls Catholic Church - Church Services
The March 17, 1887 edition of the  Daily Journal newspaper  was recovered from the cornerstone of All Souls  Catholic Church in January...
Father Patrick J. "PJ" Bresnahan - All Souls Catholic Church
According to the  October 14, 1910 Sanford Herald, Father Patrick J. Bresnahan said his first Mass as first resident pastor of All...
Father Michael J. Fox - All Souls Catholic Church
The 1908 Celery City Chronicle features  information  about all aspects of life in Sanford -  the organizations, businesses,  ente...
All Souls Catholic Parish - Society of St. Vincent dePaul
Inspired by Gospel values, the Society of St. Vincent dePaul conference at All Souls Catholic Church is a Catholic lay organization that...
All Souls Catholic Church - East Egg Hunt circa 1978
Miscellaneous photos of Father William Ennis,  12th Pastor of All Souls Catholic Parish in Sanford, Florida, and young ones participating in the...
All Souls Catholic Parish 2009 Album - Events
Two pages of photos of events at All Souls Catholic Parish in Sanford, Florida, taken from the 2009 church directory album.
All Souls Catholic Parish 2009 Album - History to be Remembered
Two pages from the 2009 church directory album at All Souls Catholic Parish in Sanford, Florida. The pages have a collage of...
All Souls Parish 2009 Album - Sacraments & Ministries
Two pages from the All Souls Catholic Parish 2009 directory album. The pages present a collage of sacraments and ministries at the...
All Souls Catholic Parish 2009 Album - School & Faith Formation
Two pages from the All Souls Catholic Parish 2009 directory album featuring collages from the Parochial School and Faith Formation Classes.
All Souls Catholic Parish 2009 Album - School History
Two pages from the All Souls Catholic Parish 2009 directory album featuring collages  of images of the teachers, school and students.
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All Souls Catholic School 60th Anniversary - postcard

All Souls Catholic School postcard invitation to festivities surrounding the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the school in 1954.

All Souls Catholic School 60th Anniversary - postcard

All Souls Catholic School postcard invitation to festivities surrounding the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the school in 1954.

All Souls Catholic School Addition - Groundbreaking 1959

Published in The Florida CatholicÔÇï on July 3, 1959, this photo captured the groundbreaking for additional school classrooms at All Souls Catholic parish in Sanford in 1959.
Shown in the photo is Father Richard Lyons, who spearheaded the establishment of All Souls Catholic School in 1954.
The school was established in a refurbished garage on the former home site of the Chase family at the corner of Oak and Ninth in Sanford. The Chase home was converted into a convent for the Sisters of Christian Charity with their leader, Sister Veronita.

All Souls Catholic Church - Dedication of new Church 2008

A special dedication booklet was created for the Dedication of the new All Souls Catholic Church - many years in the planning! It features photos of the construction site from the beginning of the process to the completion of the new Church.

PLEASE NOTE: The history presented in the dedication album has several errors. 

As an example, the history in the album states that Father Bresnahan because the first resident pastor at All Souls in April 1911, but  Father Patrick J. "PJ" Bresnahan  actually  arrived at All Souls   in October 1910  and said his first Mass  on Sunday, October 23, 1910, as stated in the October 14, 1910 edition of the Sanford Herald (emphasis added).

County Happenings. "Will Have Resident Pastor"

   Last Sunday [October 9, 1911] Father Fox officiated for the last time as pastor of the Catholic church in Sanford. This church he has served continuously for eighteen years, having received his appointment from Bishop Moore in 1892. That period of time witnessed the prosperity and the adversity of the old and the birth of a New Sanford and during it all the pastor stood by his flock. He now leaves regretfully when the New Sanford is in a vigorous and promising adolescence and when the prospects of his church are brighter than they ever were before. But these improved conditions and increased congregations make changes imperative. Hitherto Sanford was a mission, it will now have a resident pastor and be the centre of a surrounding missionary field. The church will be in its normal condition with pastor and Mass all Sundays and weekdays.

   A rectory, to house the new pastor, will be of immediate necessity and there is hope that at no distant time there will be erected a convent and school to aid in the work of keeping New Sanford clean, cultured, and Christian.

   The Rev. Patrick J. Bresnahan, until recently of Tallahassee, will succeed Father Fox. He is not unknown to the people of Sanford, having replaced the Pastor five years ago when the latter made a trip to Europe. Father Bresnahan is strong physically, and interested in base ball and other sports. He is, too, strong mentally and morally and will be a decided acquisition to the city in the works of citizenship and civic nature. Father Bresnahan will take possession of his charge, Sunday, 23rd inst. [October 23, 1910]

Another example deals with the date the rectory was completed and when the Sisters of Mercy arrived and started St. Anne's School. The date mentioned in the History in the Dedication is "before 1913" but the dates are much earlier based on newspaper articles in the Sanford Herald.

Sanford Herald, April 28, 1911, no page number, col. 1-2.

Parochial Residence of Father Bresnahan. The Catholic Church.

   Among the many changes and improvements, that have been made in Sanford during the past six months, by no means the least was raising of the district to the dignity of a Catholic parish so great was the influx of Catholics to Sanford and neighboorhood [sic] that a resident priest was found to be absolutely necessary so that the spiritual needs of these Catholics may be attended to accordingly towards the end of October 1910 the Rev. P. J. Bresnahan formerly diocesan missionary of this diocese of St. Augustine was sent hither by his bishop to organize a new parish a Catholic census showed almost 50 Catholic families in town, and a catechism class with an enrollment of about 40 children.

   The church is constantly increasing its membership and is now probably the strongest church in the city. The material improvements made have attracted the attention of every citizen. For within four months after his arrival Father Bresnahan found himself in a beautiful parochial residence erected by his enthusiastic congregation at a cost of not less than $2500. A beautiful new altar and has been installed also an organ. And now there is talk of the sisters coming to establish a catholic school on the other side of the beautiful building block owned by the church in Sanford.

Still another example deals with the opening date of the school run by the Sisters of Mercy - St. Anne's School.

Sanford Herald, September 29, 1911, page  12, col. 2.

New School Opens.    
The Sisters of Mercy started their school at Park Ave. and Ninth street last Monday [September 25, 1911]. For the present they accept pupils for the kindergarten and grammar school only, owing to lack of accommodations for high school pupils. A new school building is to be put up on the Catholic Church property in the very near future, and then they will be in a position to receive those seeking opportunity for higer [sic] studies.  The pupils now in attendance tax the building they occupy. A number of music pupils as well as some for painting have been enrolled.   NOTE: Peter Schaal in, "Sanford as I knew it 1912-1935," p. 4 states: "April 16, 1912 ... I was a student at St. Anne's school, 831 Park Avenue* (later the home of Mayor T. L. Dumas)... The school operated in that building from September 25, 1911 to late **1912..."

*The 1912 Sanborn map shows the address as 823 Park, the last house on the block. The 1920 R. L. Polk Sanford Directory, p. 58, shows Thomas L. Dumas resides at 823 Park. The 1915 Sanford City Directory indicates that James C. and Mollie A. Roberts resided at 823 Park in 1915. Based on these three resources, it seems likely that the school was first located in the house that currently sits at 823 Park.
** The May 10, 1912, Tampa Tribune states: "The convent and home for the Sisters of Mercy ... is so near completion that the sisters ... have moved in, and the children are receiving instruction in the new building ..." 


All Souls Parish - Sanford Herald 1908-1912

Excerpts from The Sanford Herald newspaper from 1908 through 1913 (at this time). Includes Fathe Fox's last Mass, arrival of first resident pastor - Father Patrick J. "PJ" Bresnahan, arrival of the Sisters of Mercy and their St. Anne's School, school entertainments, school picnics at SanLando Springs, the construction of the rectory, and more.

This is an on-going project and more will be added in the future.

All Souls Catholic Parish - Priests and Deacons

This  list of Priest and Deacons who have served the parishioners of All Souls Catholic parish  is a work in progress.  As additional information and facts  are discovered, the information contained in this list is updated. 

All Souls Catholic Church - Dedication of 2nd Church

Newspaper article about the dedication of the second All Souls Catholic Church on July 4, 1937, 50 years after the laying of the cornerstone for the first church on July 4, 1887. Father John J. Kelleghan is featured in a photograph with young Frank Meisch who received First Holy Communion on the same day.

All Souls Catholic Parish - Album Directory circa 1968

The parish directory or album was published around 1967-1968 and includes photos and information on the parish.

There errors in some of the information presented in the album  directory  relative to dates of important events in the Parish History. For example: It states Father Bresnahan arrived in 1911 and the Sanford Herald  and Father Bresnahan's own book "Seeing Florida With a Priest" proved he was in Sanford in 1910. Another example: It states the first church burned down in 1931 and it was on January 25, 1932, as proven by newspaper articles in the Sanford Herald and Orlando Sentinel newspapers as well as Fire Department photographs and records.



All Souls Catholic Church - 1962 Fire

The first All Souls Catholic Church was burned down on January 25, 1932. As unbelievable as it may seem, someone tried to burn down the second church on  September 30, 1962  - 30 years later.  This newspaper article from the Sanford Herald, published October 1, 1962 on the front page,   gives details and a photograph.  There is a transcription of the article at the end   of the document  as it is very difficult to read due to the condition of the image on the original microfilm.

The October 7, 1962 Sunday Bulletin had this announcement regarding the fire:

By now all of your know about the fire that burnt out the vestibule of our Church last   Sunday evening, and damaged the rest of the interior by smoke. We have no  definite information how the fire started, except that it was no accident. By very good fortune it was discovered soon, so that much greater damage would have resulted. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Mrs. Toth who came to visit the Church at the most opportune moment and gave the alarm. All damage is fully covered by insurance, and work of cleaning and restoring has already begun. So many have asked how they could help. For the present, your regular Sunday contributions will be the most acceptable way. Later some particular items needed, will be mentioned and your kind help solicited. Thank you  for the many wonderful expressions of sympathy, the prayers and tears we all shared together! These more than anything, are precious fruits of a bond of kindness and charity among us that is overwhelming. God   Bless  All of You!

Sanford Florida - The Celery City

Publication from 1909, created by the Sanford Board of Trade,  promoting Sanford, Florida - The Celery City - including information on  local businesses,  tourist  accomodations, industry, farming, organizations and churches. All Souls Catholic Church can be found in the photographs.

There was thought to be some issues with the KKK during All Souls long history in Sanford but  none has been proven. It is of interest that the only church shown in this publication  (see pages 12 adn 13)  that does not mention affiliation is  All Souls CATHOLIC Church. The listing here is just "All Soul's Church."

All Souls Catholic Parish Rectory - Sanford Holiday Tour of Homes 1996

Excperts  about All Souls Catholic Parish's historic rectory (former Chase home) from the 1996 Sanford Historic Turst 8th Annual Holiday Tour of Homes, Saturday and Sunday, December 7 & 9, 1996.  

All Souls Catholic Church - Father Michael Clasby

Father  Michael  Columbkille  Clasby was the 5th Pastor at All Souls Catholic Church in Sanford, Florida. Research indicates that he served from before December 1925 (he is in the December 1925 telephone directory)  to before October 1930  (his next appointment began on  that date). 

A reporter for the Sanford Today  magazine interviewed Father Clasby in September 10, 1926  for a weekly column that featured local pastors discussing the sermon they would preach on Sunday.

The two were sitting in the rocking chairs on the front porch of the first  rectory (shown on the far left above) built for Father Patrick J. "PJ" Bresnahan in early 1911 (View enlarged image) smoking cigarettes as they spoke. 

The article entitled  "Sanford's Briefest Sermon Will be Preached Tomorrow Morning in All Souls Church by Father Clasby - Topic: "Do Not Swear,"  gives us an insight into Father Clasby's wonderful Irish sense of humor, his demeanor, and perhaps his ability to make a point with brevity. 

Index to Timeline History

Creation of the parish Timeline History is still in progress, but this index will give an overview of types of information and documents included at this time (2015).

All Souls Catholic Parish Timeline History Sources Cited

List of all the sources cited in the All Souls Timeline History currently under construction (2015). This is a list of all the printed copies of documents collected and cited with notations regarding discrepancies, contradictions and corrections to the original document.

Index Seeing Florida with a Priest

Index to Seeing Florida with a Priest by P J Bresnahan (Rev. Father Patrick J. Bresnahan).

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