Retired Catholic priest celebrated for his service

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INDIALANTIC — Hundreds of parishioners turned out on Sunday to celebrate the 90th birthday of Bishop David Page, who guided the faithful through countless baptisms, weddings and other life events during his six decades as a priest.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude,” Page said after taking his place in a room full of worshipers from the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Indialantic, fellow priests and family members. He was surrounded by well-wishers and special guests after being led from the shrine to the room.

Bishop John Noonan, who oversees the Orlando Diocese, also attended Mass on Sunday as part of the celebration. June marks the 64th year that Page has served as a priest. In 1987 Page was commissioned to run Holy Name, located in the seaside town of Indialantic. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI elevated Page to the title of monsignor before Page retired from full-time duties in 2010.

However, he remains a regular at Holy Name.

“Sixty-four years as a priest…wow! That’s endurance,” Reverend Tim Connery said during the Sunday homily. He paid tribute as Page looked on, talking about his leadership, decision and accessibility.

Bishop David Page, led by PFC Marine Austin Rolison and Jennifer Rolison, his mother.

“His eye was always on goal,” Connery said, adding that Page welcomes criticism and never takes it personally. “He’s not going to back down, his mind is always on the goal. He’s an incredibly humble man,” he added.

“To me, he’s very forward-looking. He was always looking to implement the best elements of Vatican II,” said Bill Gent, director of evangelism for the congregation of 15,000 Catholics.

“(Page) believed in engaging the laity and encouraged them to take on roles in the work of the church,” Gent said, adding that Page also helped expand Holy Name land with a building project. of $15 million.

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Page was born on June 10, 1932 on a small farm in County Galway, Ireland. The second youngest of eight children, Page was 8 when his father died, and everyone was forced to work on the farm to survive.

“It was a lot of work,” he said in 2010. “There was no fridge, there was nothing like raiding the cooler for a bottle of Coke. It was very tough but healthy. I like to think of it as my training camp for the Florida mission fields.”

Page and her siblings walked a mile and a half to and from school each day and the family walked three miles to church on Sundays. He was always impressed by the stories told by Irish missionaries returning from distant travels, particularly in Africa.

By the time he turned 14, Page knew he wanted to follow in their footsteps.

“I thank God that I never doubted this calling. I always felt assured that this was what the Lord wanted me to do,” he said.

Bishop David Page welcomes guests for his 90th birthday.

Page attended the Jesuit boarding school for seven years. Just before being ordained, his superiors asked him where he wanted to serve. Africa was out of the question because of language barriers, so he chose the United States.

He was ordained on June 10, 1958, and arrived in Florida on August 15 of that year, amazed at how much bigger everything was than in Ireland. His first assignment was to teach high school students in St. Petersburg. His duties included daily mass and supervising sports for young people.

Page earned his master’s degree in American history at the Catholic University in Washington, DC, to better serve his students, but was never able to use his newly acquired knowledge. He was reassigned just at the start of the new school year.

Bishop Joseph Hurley had other ideas for Page: he would “build” a new parish near New Smyrna Beach. Hurley also made him editor of the Florida Catholic newspaper.

“I guess he believed a priest could handle anything,” Page said of the position he held from 1965 to 1990. Without a background in journalism, Page struggled during the early years.

“Then I realized I had to hire good editors,” he said.

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In 1972 Page was appointed pastor of the historic St. James Cathedral in Orlando.

In 2016, an addition was added to the priest’s primary residence so Page could move from his condo to the house so he wouldn’t have to grow old alone.

“She’s such a special person,” said Jennifer Rolison, one of Page’s caregivers.

On Sunday, she saw Page smile and laugh with celebrants and other guests at her party. “He’s just overwhelmed by it all. He’s just a phenomenal man.”

JD Gallop is a criminal justice/Breaking News reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallop at 321-917-4641 or [email protected] Twitter: @JDGallop.

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