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Our Lady of Lourdes
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Our Lady's History

Brevard County could not boast of even one resident Catholic priest as late as the year 1900. Missionaries—religious and diocesan—would come from great distances on horseback, by boat, by bicycle, or on foot to administer the spiritual needs of the few isolated Catholics in the area. They would offer Mass in the homes of these Catholic families, hear confessions and administer other sacraments. These were the dedicated pioneers who blazed the trying trail from St. Augustine to Key West to take care of the spiritual needs of a faithful and saintly flock. They were such men as Fr. John F.R. Chambon, Fr. Henry Peter Clavreul and Fr. Felix Ghione, all French-born priests of the Diocese of St. Augustine; Fr. H.F. Parkes from Wheeling, West Virginia; Fr. John O’Boyle, Fr. William Kenny from Palatka, who was later to become third Bishop of St. Augustine; Fr. Michael J. Curley, who would become fourth Bishop of St. Augustine and later Archbishop of Baltimore; and Fr. Gabriel Rubbert, a Benedictine missionary from Louisiana, after who our present council of the Knights of Columbus is named. 
The last decade of the 1800’s witnessed the erection of the first Catholic Church in our County, the tiny wooden church of St. Teresa’s in Titusville. Two years before the outbreak of World War I, Fr. Gabriel Ruppert, O.S.B., took up residence in Fort Pierce and assumed responsibility for the Brevard Missions; it was he who built the church in Palm Bay, St. Joseph’s on Miller Street in 1914. Fr. Gabriel ministered to congregations from Titusville to Jupiter and from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Okeechobee, a tremendous task for one man at any time but certainly a Herculean one at that period when we consider the state of the roads and the mode of travel! He continued until 1924, when he was succeeded by Fr. Patrick J. Breshnahan, an Irish missionary priest of the Diocese, who was the first resident priest in Palm Bay. Fr. John Walsh came three years later. It was under Fr. Walsh’s administration that the first Catholic Church in Melbourne was built. Parish records state that the original church building, which was located where the current church now sits, was dedicated in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes on December 8, 1931, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, by Bishop Patrick Barry.
Fr. Francis J. Finnegan succeeded Fr. Walsh in 1936. By this time, the number of Catholics in Melbourne had increased while the population of Palm Bay had begun to decline. During the 1940’s—early 1950’s Our Lady of Lourdes was the only parish serving the Catholic community of South Brevard County. Although St. Joseph’s was dedicated in 1914, it became inactive for a number of years. Fr. James Kerr, a native of Pittsburgh, succeeded Fr. Finnegan in 1941 and one year later answered the call for chaplains in World War II; he served in the U.S. Navy until his untimely death in 1943. Fr. Mark McLoughlin succeeded Fr. Kerr and served at Our Lady of Lourdes until the end of 1950. Fr. Patrick Halligan served from 1950 to 1951 when he was succeeded by Fr. Robert Brush.
Fr. Brush founded our parish school in 1953 with the construction of a four-classroom building. The first enrollment was one hundred and five students. The school continued under lay teachers until 1954 when two Sisters of St. Dominic from Adrian Michigan arrived. 
Fr. Joseph Barry was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in 1955. During his administration, much work was done in the area of parish expansion. Eight classrooms were added to the original four, a site of the new convent was purchased (this is this Ministries Building today). In 1957 a building which was originally called a cafetorium, was built on the northwest corner of Hickory Street and Fee Avenue. The intent was that this building would serve as both an auditorium and cafeteria for the school. At the same time, the original church was grossly overcrowded. To alleviate this situation, the cafetorium was altered so that it could be used as a Church. This building is used as our Parish Hall today. The hope was that at some time in the future, a separate Church Building would be erected on the site of the original Church. Mass in this new church was first celebrated on Christmas Eve, 1957. The school as we see it today was completed in 1958.
In 1960, our parish became involved with the founding and nurturing of new parishes in our area. The first being Ascension Parish in 1960. In the following year, St. Joseph’s Parish in Palm Bay received its own resident priest. Fr. Barry was transferred to Jacksonville in 1963 and was succeeded by Fr. Peter C. Dolan, who was assisted by Fr. Felix Banos. The parish convent of the Sisters of St. Dominic was completed in 1964. In 1972, Fr. Dolan was sent to establish a new parish in Ft. Pierce and was succeed by Fr. John P. Caulfield. Of significance in the late seventies and early eighties was the building of two new churches in South Brevard: Holy Name of Jesus and Immaculate Conception. All these parishes built new church buildings and the boundaries of Our Lady of Lourdes were reduced significantly. During this time, the plan to build a church was abandoned as parish population and revenues declined with the growth of these new parishes.
In 1985, Fr. Caulfield was assigned to St. Joseph’s Church in Lakeland and was succeeded by Fr. Robert V. Fucheck. In 1987, partly as a result of the failure of a section of roof in the church, parishioners began to think and talk about renovating the building. This talk turned to action and in 1988 a Renovation Committee was formed. Initially this group explored ways to improve the church building so that liturgies could be better implemented. At the same time, our community came to the realization that the parish hall was in poor repair and inadequate for our needs. The Renovation Committee began to discuss the construction of a new hall. As part of this process, the committee decided to invite architects to their meetings to gather ideas on renovating the Church building and developing costs estimated for the combined project. During one of these meetings, an architect presented the cost analysis for a new Church and it became very clear that the construction of a new Church was a financial possibility. More study followed by the committee and within a short amount of time, a consensus was reached to build a new Church. As the plan to build the new Church unfolded, two discoveries were made. The original stained glass from the 1931 Church was located in a rear room of the Ministries Building and the bell that was cast for the 1931 Church was also found. Both of these items are part of our current church. In order to build the new church, it was necessary to demolish the Parish Hall and Rectory. A duplex was purchased off campus to house the priests and the Convent was used as the Ministries/Office Building. Site limitations during the construction prompted major parking conflicts. For this reason, the property on Hickory Street was purchased in addition to the property on Lincoln Avenue where Fr. Joseph Rimshaw resides. The facilities which now make up the Child Development Center were acquired during this time, expanding our school from Kindergarten—Eighth Grade to Pre-K 3 (three year old) to Eighth Grade. Our current church was dedicated in September, 1992.
After seeing the construction of the church through to completion, Fr. Fucheck was transferred to St. Timothy Parish in Lady Lake and was succeeded by Fr. Timothy P. LaBo in 1993. 
Fr. LaBo gave permission to the Youth Group to remodel the house located on Hickory Street and to use that as the Youth Group’s meeting place. During Fr. LaBo’s time at Our Lady of Lourdes much of the focus was on lowering the church debt and maintaining the current facilities. Fr. LaBo left in 1996 and was succeeded by Fr. William Hanley. 
Physical facilities remained the same until 1999 when Fr. Hanley led the effort to renovate the South Brevard Sharing Center. The South Brevard Sharing Center operated out of a building on the school campus. A decision was made to ask them to relocate with our assistance. This decision led the Sharing Center to locate to their new modern facility on Hibiscus Boulevard. The old Sharing Center was remodeled and now houses the School Technology Center, Media Center and Science Lab. This wonderful facility allows the students to learn computer and scientific skills in a state of the art facility. 
During this same time, a committee was formed to raise funds to renovate the hall so it would be more suitable for parish events. The Parish Hall was completed and dedicated in December, 1999. The Technology Center was dedicated in August, 2001 in preparation for the 2001/2002 School Year. 
The hurricanes of 2004 did extensive damage to the hall & church facilities. After the repairs were made to the Parish Hall, we began to focus on repairing the damage to the church. In June, 2006 we began to hold the weekend masses in the Parish Hall while the repairs to the church were underway. On December 8, 2006, our 75th Anniversary, we returned to our newly renovated Church. 
In January 2010, Fr Karl Bergin arrived renovating the inside of the parish office, much of the school interior including technology upgrades, and the exterior of the campus as a whole. Parishioners donated the white Jerusalem stone now seen in the sanctuary, tabernacle, and Mary’s statue area.