History of St. Madeleine Catholic Church
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 Catholic Church 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, Fr. Edward Murphy in 2002, Fr. Sebastian K. George, CMI in 2007, and our current pastor, Fr. Marek Dzien. 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, afterwards it was used as a small thrift store, and in 2013 it was removed from the property to make space for the Memorial Garden and Cemetery. Fr. Murphy's term included the pastoral care of San Juan Mission, Branford and the purchase of the home and property which houses the rectory.
Under the leadership of Fr. George, the parish flourished. In 2007, 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. In January of 2011, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the former multi-purpose building was renovated and dedicated as a church. In November of 2013, the Memorial Garden and Cemetery were completed and opened. In 2015, at the request of Bishop Felipe J. Estévez, the Adoration Chapel was renovated and became the Santa Fe Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche. In 2016, the Marian Grotto was created, along with the Emmaus Walk and Outdoor Stations of the Cross. In 2017, the Memorial Garden expanded to include a memorial for US Patriots and a memorial for the Unborn which was dedicated in June of 2018 under Fr. Dzien.
Fr. Marek Dzien, our current pastor, arrived in December of 2017. He is originally from Poland and spent six years as a missionary in Ecuador. He arrived at the Diocese of St. Augustine in 2008 and pastored at St. Augustine Church in Gainesville, FL before arriving at St. Madeleine. The faithful of St. Madeleine continue to enjoy the beautiful campus and all the religious and social activities available.