The History of St. Madeleine Parish
It was April 9, 1969, when Bishop Paul F. Tanner affixed the Diocesan Seal to documents establishing the parish of St. Madeleine Sophie in High Springs. Catholicism in High Springs, however, was nurtured much earlier than the date of its parish establishment. In 1906 Fr. Patrick A. Bresnaha stayed in a bullet-hole riddled hotel known as the "Yellow Dog" and he said his first mass in our town in the home of Sarah and James Paul. Masses continued to be held in people's homes until 1925. In April 1925, James Paul deeded land in downtown High Springs for a church and the building we now call the "Adoration Chapel" was built. On May 24, 1925, the eve of the feast day of our patroness St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, the church building was blessed and placed under her patronage. St. Madeleine remained as a mission church of St. Patrick's in Gainesville until 1968 when Fr. Richard Altenbaugh was appointed as the first resident pastor.
Fr. Michael Williams assumed his first assignment as pastor of St. Madeleine "Tri-County Parish" consisting of the missions of High Springs, Cross City, and Williston in 1971. He was followed by Fr. Paul Hogarty in 1973, Fr. Roland Julien in 1974, Fr. John Dux in 1977, Fr. Joseph Meehan in 1985, Fr. Wayne Price in 1993, Fr. Noel Cox, CSSp, in 1995, and Fr. Edward Murphy in 2002. Other priests who served in the 2000's include Fr. Jim Cottrell as non-resident associate and Fr. Gerald Pincince as Interim Administrator. It was Fr. Julien who purchased the property that housed the ill-reputed Dragon Arts Drive-In with the intention of making it a family oriented theatre. Fr. Dux arranged to have the parish moved to the new site in December 1979. The main building was constructed as a multi-purpose building in 1981 and it was blessed on May 6, 1984.
Fr. Meehan dealt with debt incurred from the building projects. Fr. Cox was instrumental at getting the mortgage paid off and moving the abandoned church building in Hawthorne to our property. It was the Education Building until 2007 and currently used for the Country Store. Fr. Murphy's term on wards the pastoral care of San Juan Mission, Branford, was extended to St. Madeleine. He also arranged for the purchase of our new rectory.
Our present pastor, Fr. Sebastian K. George, CMI, arrived in 2007, the year the Diocese purchased the property with a house that now serves as the Activity Center. In 2008, the beautiful crucifix in front of the Church was dedicated in memory of Rt. Rev. Msgr. Achille D'Anca. In 2009, the Family Life Center was built and was dedicated on the Feast of All Saints. January 9, 2011, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we dedicated our former multi-purpose building as a church.