The first St. Anastasia Church was a simple wood frame building constructed in 1908 that stood on 10th Street and Orange Avenue. At right, St. Anastasia School Principal
Kevin Hoeffner stands beneath the bell donated by his great-grandfather, A.P. Hoeffner. The bell was used in the original church and now hangs at St. Anastasia Catholic School.
Hoeffner’s three children are the fourth generation of his family to attend school at St. Anastasia.
in the tower of the original church and school on Orange
Avenue. Ironically, Hoeffner says that as principal he has had
to put some limits on overly enthusiastic ringing of that bell.
CENTURY OF GROWTH
St. Anastasia Parish is the second oldest in the Diocese of
Palm Beach. Just a dozen families attended the church when
it was established in 1910. Now there are 1,350 families.
“Over the years, parishioners, pastors, priests and nuns
have witnessed prosperity, wars, economic growth, real estate
booms and busts and a myriad of changes in our community,”
says the Rev. Richard George.
The parish plans a number of events this year to celebrate
its centennial, leading up to an anniversary Mass on Dec. 11.
At the turn of the 20th century, Catholics weren’t common
in Fort Pierce, although the faith came to the area first with
the Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles, who established
Santa Lucia in 1567.
Mission priests sent from more populated parts of Florida
traveled here by horseback or boat to celebrate Mass in the
Fort Pierce meeting hall. One early circuit-riding priest, the
Rev. P.J. Bresnahan, recalled that the meals the locals made
for him were simple pioneer fare. “I get something they call
hominy in the morning, rice at dinner, and grits at night,”
he wrote, adding that in more abundant times he feasted on
“fried chicken, roast, wild duck and turkey.”
By the mid-1890s, the Methodists, Episcopalians and
Baptists had built churches in Fort Pierce. The congregations
of Mount Olive Baptist Church and St. Paul A.M.E. Church
were worshipping in their own churches by the early 1900s.
But it wasn’t until Thomas J. O’Brien, who had immigrated
to the United States from Ireland, came to Fort Pierce to help
place telegraph lines that the idea of a Catholic church began
to take shape.
THE FIRST CHURCH
According to Anne Sinnott, who has researched the history
of St. Anastasia, O’Brien worked as a store clerk at a general
store owned by Captain Benjamin and Annie Hogg. When
the Hoggs sold the store to P.P. Cobb, O’Brien went into the
wholesale fishing business with Ransom Ricou.
O’Brien met and married Courtney Raulerson, the daughter
of a prominent local cattleman, and the two opened their
home to the missionary priests for Masses, baptisms and
weddings. The first documented Mass was held in 1903 at
their house west of 10th Street and south of Orange Avenue.
The funds for building a church got a considerable boost
from Sen. James P. McNichol, a wealthy Philadelphian who
spent winters in St. Lucie Village. McNichol bought a large
block of property at Orange Avenue east of 10th Street so that
a church, school and rectory could be built. The first church,
a simple wood-frame structure that seated 125, was built in
HISTORICAL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY ST. ANASTASIA CATHOLIC CHURCH
Treasure Coast Education