|The Catholic Church in Northwest Florida is rich in history:|
|1559||The First Mass was offered on August 15th. Spanish colonists led by Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano, accompanied by five Dominican priests and a lay brother, arrived at Pensacola. Devastated by a hurricane, the settlement was abandoned two years later.|
|1674||Gabriel Diaz Vara Calderon, Bishop of Santiago de Cuba, visited the Franciscan missions in present day Madison, Jefferson and Leon counties, along the Apalachicola River and administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to Indian converts.|
|1693||Resettlement of Pensacola by Spain.|
|1763||With the Treaty of Paris, an exodus of Spanish Catholics took place during the British occupation of Florida.|
|1781||Spain captured Pensacola, and the Church's presence was restored when Father Pedro Velez was sent to minister at the Spanish garrison. St. Michael Parish was established and has served continuously since that time.|
|1787||The Diocese of San Cristobal of Havana was established and Bishop Jose de Trespalacios y Verdeja assumed jurisdiction of Cuba and the territories of Louisiana and the Floridas.|
|1791||Bishop Cyril of Barcelona visited Pensacola and found 245 Catholics among the 572 residents.|
|1795||The East and West of Florida were placed in the new Diocese of New Orleans. The first Bishop was Luis Penalver y Cardenas, former Vicar General of Havana. He visited Pensacola in 1798.|
|1823||St. Michael Parish, Pensacola, was incorporated under the territorial laws of Florida, now a possession of the United States.|
|1829||The new Diocese of Mobile was established and included both Alabama and Florida. Bishop Michael Portier, First Bishop, traveled from Pensacola to Tallahassee and St.Augustine and back amid great hardship and hostility, seeking to strengthen the Church across North Florida.|
|1837||Bishop Portier established the first parish school and, by 1870, 100 pupils were enrolled at St. Michael Academy.|
|1850||All of Florida east of the Apalachicola River was transferred to the jurisdiction of the newly established Diocese of Savannah with Bishop Francis X. Gartland, First Bishop. The ten western counties of North Florida remained in the Diocese of Mobile.|
|1851||St. John Parish was formed in Warrington near the Pensacola Navy Yard and St. Patrick Parish began in Apalachicola. Apalachicola was then a flourishing cotton export center.|
|1861||The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, at the request of the Confederate General, arrived in Pensacola and staffed an infirmary until 1865. The Sisters returned in 1915 when Sacred Heart Hospital was founded.|
|1870||The Diocese of St. Augustine was established and included all of Florida east of the Apalachicola River. Bishop Augustin Verot was named First Bishop and participated in the First Vatican Council.|
|1877||The Sisters of Mercy arrived to staff St. Michael School, Pensacola, and in the following year they opened St. John School, Warrington.|
|1885||After the destruction of three previous buildings by fire, the present St. Michael Church was built and dedicated the following year by Bishop Jeremiah O'Sullivan of Mobile.|
|1927||Bishop Thomas J. Toolen became Sixth Bishop of Mobile and guided the Church in Alabama and Northwest Florida for more than forty years, traveling extensively by automobile and establishing numerous parishes, schools and institutions.|
|1958||The Diocese of Miami was established to include sixteen counties in South Florida.|
|1967||In May, the present Sacred Heart Church, Pensacola, was dedicated by Archbishop Thomas J. Toolen of Mobile. In September, St. Thomas More Church near the campus of Florida State University, Tallahassee, was dedicated by Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley of St. Augustine.|
|1968||In February, Bishop Paul F. Tanner was named Seventh Bishop of St. Augustine. In June, the Diocese of Miami was raised to Archdiocese and the province of Miami was established to include all of the Dioceses of Florida. At the same time, the new Dioceses of St. Petersburg and Orlando were created. The ten counties of northwest Florida formerly a part of the Diocese of Mobile were transferred now to the Diocese of St. Augustine.|
|1975||The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee was established. On November 6th, Bishop Rene H. Gracida, former Auxiliary Bishop of Miami, was installed as First Bishop. Sacred Heart Church, Pensacola, was named the Cathedral and St. Thomas More Church, Tallahassee, the Co-Cathedral. The new Diocese was placed under the Patronage of St. Michael the Archangel and St. Thomas More.|
|1983||With the transfer of Bishop Rene H. Gracida to the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, Bishop J. Keith Symons, former Auxiliary Bishop of St. Petersburg, was named Second Bishop and Installed on November 8th.|
|1984||In October, the new Dioceses of Palm Beach and Venice were established in South Florida. The State of Florida now numbers seven Dioceses.|
|1990||On June 2, 1990, Bishop J. Keith Symons was appointed second Bishop of Palm Beach where he was installed on July 31, 1991. The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee remained vacant for a period of one year. Monsignor James Amos served as Diocesan Administrator.|
|1991||Bishop John Mortimer Smith, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, was appointed on June 25, 1991 to be Third Bishop of Pensacola- Tallahassee. He was installed in the Civic Center at Pensacola on July 31, 1991.|
|1995||Bishop Smith was reassigned by Pope John Paul II as the Bishop of Trenton, New Jersey in 1995. The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee remained vacant for a period of one year. Monsignor James Amos served as Diocesan Administrator.|
|1997||Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ was installed as the Fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola- Tallahassee on Thursday, March 13, 1997 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pensacola. He was appointed by Pope John Paul II and succeeded Bishop John M. Smith.|
|2000||Pensacola-Tallahassee celebrates 25 years as a Diocese|
|2011||Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, retires as diocesan bishop due to ill health. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami is appointed episcopal administrator of the diocese.|
|The Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel was dedicated Feb. 10, in recognition of the importance of the parish and its long history, being the oldest continuously operating parish in the Province of Miami. Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, a priest of the Diocese of Orlando, ordained to the episcopacy and installed as the Fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee on Tuesday, June 5, at St. Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola. He was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI and succeeded Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ|
The Catholic Church in Florida has experienced many changes and great growth over the years. This brief history only recalls highlights. Known to God alone and recorded in the silent pages of eternal history are the innumerable prayers, sacrifices and great heartfelt generosity of hundreds of thousands of men and women. Grateful for their gift of Faith, they have shown well their appreciation to Almighty God by their ongoing determination to pass the "Light of Christ" on to the future.
The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee was established on November 6, 1975, by dividing the Diocese of St. Augustine which at that time consisted of thirty-five counties. Until May 8, 1968, the ten counties west of the Apalachicola River were part of the Diocese of Mobile while the eight counties east of the river were part of the St. Augustine Diocese from its establishment in 1870.
The Catholic population is most numerous in the western section of the Diocese (Pensacola) where 40% of the total population live. The remaining 60% are nearly equally divided in the areas of Fort Walton Beach, Panama City and Tallahassee. There are few Catholic households in the vast seven rural counties along the 200 mile stretch of highway from the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Pensacola, to the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, Tallahassee.
There are four deaneries within the diocese: Western, West Central, East Central and Eastern.
Northwest Florida is not highly populated or industrialized. It is mostly made up of rural farming communities which have dedicated vast acreage to growing trees for major paper product companies. Economic well-being is greatly due to the large military presence in the diocese. There are seven military bases in the diocese. Among those bases is Eglin Air Force Base, which is the largest United States Air Force Base in the world. The huge Eglin Air Force Base covers 765 square miles or three Northwest Florida Counties. In addition to numerous military personnel, civilian men and women are employed as support staff.
Significant economic factors in Northwest Florida are the three Air Force bases at Eglin, Hurlburt, and Tyndall; the three Naval bases at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Corry, and Whiting; and one Coast Guard Base in Panama City. Naval Air Station, Pensacola, is the training center for all pilots for the United States Navy. These military installations provide employment to area residents and support commercial businesses and enterprises which have been built around Northwest Florida Bases.
There are 48 parishes and 9 missions in the diocese. There is a resident pastor in every county except three: Holmes, Jefferson and Liberty. Many parishes in the less populated areas are subsidized by mission societies such as The Catholic Church Extension Society; The American Board of Catholic Missions; the Commission Among the Blacks and Indians; and Missionary Cooperative Appeals personally made by the Diocesan Bishop in other dioceses of Florida.
None of the counties in this diocese are growth impact areas, although four are predicted to experience substantial growth in the next ten years. Two more are expected to grow at a lesser rate while little or no expansion is anticipated for the other twelve counties. There is considerable evidence of development along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico which is the southern boundary of the Diocese.
The history of the Church in our area has been one of a struggles and also of great promise. From a rural and sparsely populated area of the "old South" fifty years ago, some areas of this Northwest Florida diocese have developed into modern communities. Much of this has come from the expansion of military bases since World War II, improvements in communication and transportation, the growth of the aerospace industry, and from air-conditioning. Improved building methods have also allowed construction on the sand that is a heavy component of our soil.
Some of the smaller communities have grown slowly. Others have progressed significantly. Eleven missions were raised to the status of parishes during the last Quinquennium here.