Share this story

 | Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University, Benedictine Monks Celebrate Closing of 75th Jubilee Anniversary Year of Consecration of Saint Leo Abbey Church

It was a fitting closing for the 75th jubilee anniversary of the consecration of the Saint Leo Abbey Church on Monday, January 29, as the community joined the Benedictine Monks of Saint Leo Abbey at a special Solemn Mass.

The Saint Leo University community also hosted a special lunch following the Mass in the university’s Dining Hall. The lunch recognized and celebrated the Abbey Church’s nickname as “the church that orange juice built.”

Bishop Elias Lorenzo, OSB, from the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ, presided at the Mass and was joined by Abbot Isaac Camacho, OSB; Father Lucius Amarillas, OSB, prior of the abbey; and priests and deacons of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. Mary Worhacz, campus minister, and Amarillas provided the Gospel readings. Archabbot Martin de Porres Bartel of Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, PA, gave the homily following the Gospel reading. 

“I’m happy to be with you because this is such a wonderful occasion to observe and celebrate, but also because nine monks texted me this morning that it is 23 degrees in Latrobe,” said de Porres Bartel of Saint Vincent Archabbey. “It is a good day to be in Florida.”

In his homily, de Porres Bartel said, “Today we honor our temple. We conclude this yearlong observance of the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the Abbey Church.

And what an appropriate context for such an observance, hearing the line in today’s Gospel quoting Psalm 69: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ As we think of all of those who came before us to make this great edifice possible, we acknowledge that zeal for God’s house consumed them.”

He noted the history of the church and the abbots who never gave up their zeal for building the Saint Leo Abbey Church despite lack of funds and times of war, and their efforts included “paying” for limestone with citrus fruits. 

“In order to save money, Saint Leo traded boxes of its ‘Abbey Brand’ oranges and grapefruit from its citrus groves to Saint Meinrad Abbey [Archabbey] of Indiana, which operated a sandstone quarry,” states Pioneer College: The Centennial History of Saint Leo College, Saint Leo Abbey, and Holy Name Priory, by James J. Horgan. “The image is somewhat exaggerated, however. Saint Leo provided fruit, not juice. And less than 10 percent of the cost of the church was accommodated in this manner. The bulk of the structure was built of Florida limestone brick, with red cedar from the abbey’s own trees for the interior beams and trim.”

The archabbot concluded his homily with a focus on the zeal that Jesus charged people to have.

“Jesus commands ‘zeal for my house and zeal for what I stand for ought to consume us,’” de Porres Bartel said. “Strong stuff. Strong Jesus. Strong us? May his body and blood, soul and divinity, soon present on this altar given to us, may it strengthen us now and forever. Amen.”