Bunnell - Saint Mary's Catholic Church

89 St.Mary's Place

The story of St. Mary's Church began IN THE YEAR 1914 in the midwest of the United States. A group of devoutly-Catholic Polish immigrants were attracted to the fabulous State of Florida by land-promotion sales-pitches published in the local newspapers. The promotions emphasized cheap farm land at $35 an acre, the possibility of three crops a year, and a local climate free from ice and snow. The group decided to relocate to Florida and selected the rural area in the northern part of Volusia County. In 1917, this area became part of Flagler County and later the City of Korona.

EARLY IN 1914 the first 35 families arrived. The new settlers were characterized by strong family traditions centered on God, Country and Honor. Their first task after acquiring land was to build their homes and a duplex home for their Priest, Rev. Father Andrew Baczyk. Since the area chosen did not have a Catholic Church, a committee was formed for this purpose. They raised $1000 to build a church. Within a short time the first Mass was celebrated with all the pomp and ceremony they could arrange. The Church was named St. Mary, Queen of Poland in honor of Poland's Patron Saint.

In 1979, Father Bayer, a recently retired Polish Priest, moved to Korona and assisted Father Julien. Father Bayer's hard work helped St. Mary to become a self-sustaining parish. Father Bayer kept the Polish tradition alive by offering a Mass in his native Polish Language and continued to be active in St. Mary's until his death in 2002. It is of great interest to know that Father Bayer was a hero in the Polish underground during WWII. He was arrested and several members of this family killed for helping Jews escape the Nazis. After the War, Father Bayer worked as a teaching Priest with a Father Karol Wojtyla who would become Pope John Paul II.

In 1980, Father Sebra replaced Father Julien as Pastor of Santa Maria del Mar and St. Mary.

In 1989, St. Mary Catholic Church celebrated its 75th Anniversary. As Father Sebra pointed out,"St. Mary's continues to be an active and growing local Parish that had been founded by Polish Immigrants in 1914 and in fact is the Mother Church to all the Catholic Parishes in Flagler County" i.e. St. Stephens, Santa Maria del Mar and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

In 1990, Father John P. O'Flaherty became Pastor of Santa Maria del Mar and of St. Mary. In his quiet and forthright way, he accomplished many improvements for both Churches and was a great favorite of those who needed his help which was always available. He undertook the construction in 1994 of the much needed new Church structure on St. Mary's property. The new St Mary Church is shown in the photograph to the right. The Church has a seating capacity of 500 in comparison with the old Church's capacity of 65. The original St. Mary Church still stands in quiet beauty, nearly unchanged and is used occasionally for weddings, baptisms and funerals.

In 2003, after Father O'Flaherty's retirement, St. Mary came under the Pastorship of Father Slawomir with the able assistance of Father Artur both of the nearby St. Joseph Carmelite Monastery. The Monastery contains one of the most beautiful and simple outdoors Stations of the Cross in the world. St Mary continues to offer a Mass in the Polish Language for the numerous Polish speaking people from surrounding Counties.

Under Father Slawomir, the Church has added several new Ministries and organizations, such as, the Woman's Club, the Fellowship Ministry, the Food Pantry, the annual Christmas Giving Tree, the Respect Life Ministry and other services for the needy families of the general public.

IN 2004, Under the direction of the Woman's Club, Mary Jenzen, President, St Mary held its 90th Anniversary with a Celebration of the Holy Eucharist followed by a gala dinner party at Halifax Plantation Restaurant. The festivities of the evening were much enlivened by the contributions of Mr. Tom Decker as Master of Ceremonies and Father Slawomir's words of wisdom and encouragement. The Parish expects to continue to have a long and happy relationship with the extraordinary Carmelite Fathers.