Share this story

 | Brittany DeHaan

A Fond Farewell and A New Beginning

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

After 38 years of faithful service to Catholics in the Ybor City area and beyond, the Marist Fathers will be leaving Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish as of June 30, 2024.

A Farewell Mass in their honor will be celebrated by Bishop Robert Lynch in the parish church on Sunday, June 9th, at 10:00 a.m., followed by a reception.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help was founded in 1890 and over the years has been cared for by four religious orders that have ministered to an increasingly diverse community.

The current pastor, Father Hector Cruz, S.M., feels bittersweet about upcoming changes to the parish.

“On one hand, I feel sad to leave the parish thinking that I am the last Marist after 38 years to oversee the parish and trying to convey our own Marist spirituality. The other part, I think that right now, the parish is ready to receive new blood: younger priests with new ideas, more enthusiasm, more energy. So, in that part, I feel comfortable,” expressed Father Cruz.

In 1890, Jesuit priests founded Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, originally titled Our Lady of Mercy. In 1926, the Salesians assumed stewardship of the parish for a span of eight years. Following the Salesians, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) managed the parish for a period of 46 years. A new church was constructed in 1937 and both the parish and its school were named after Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

In 1986, the Society of Mary (Marists) was invited to steward the parish and have continued to do so for the last 38 years.

Through the years, there have been many changes in the parish, but a community continues to thrive there.

“Even though it’s gotten smaller, the people are very involved. People are willing to step up and do things,” said Scott Givens. He and his wife, Tricia, have been parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help since 2000.  “We have a lot of ethnic groups, and I think they are drawn to the parish because those groups are so strong and active. There is a strong community in a place like this, which is important.”

Father Cruz has a positive outlook for the future.

“It has been changing always, but I think that we are still on track to accomplish evangelization, preaching of the Gospel, and leading the people of this parish community to God,” said Father Cruz.

Since the Diocese of St. Petersburg will now be responsible for the administration of the parish, Father Kyle Smith, a priest of our diocese, will become Pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish effective July 1, 2024. Father George Gyasi, Parochial Vicar of Resurrection Parish, in Riverview, will reside in the rectory of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, providing part-time service to the parish’s Hispanic population.

“I will miss the warmth of the community and the variety. We have many nationalities represented. It’s a very interesting mosaic. I think one of the best accomplishments is to be able to reach the Hispanic community in their own language and through their own culture. That had been missing. I think they are in good hands now with a part-time priest especially dedicated to serve the Hispanics,” added Father Cruz.

Mr. and Mrs. Givens have enjoyed the community and the unique backgrounds of the religious order priests, but they also look forward to what is to come.

“I’m going to miss the Marists, but I’m glad the diocese is sending someone to keep us going,” said Mrs. Givens.

“I’m looking forward to where we will go in the future,” added Mr. Givens.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish is located at 1711 E. 11th Avenue, Tampa. RSVP for the reception on June 9th by calling (813) 248-5701 or email: