Founded in 1973, Good Shepherd Now the Largest Parish in the Diocese – 2,800 Families Strong
In sprawling, but sparsely populated northern Leon County, the Rev. Edward A. Kirby spent much of the fall of 1972 recruiting Catholics for the newly created Good Shepherd Parish. That door-to-door effort turned up 34 families. They celebrated their first Holy Mass as the Good Shepherd Parish on January 28, 1973 in the Great Hall of Maclay School on North Meridian Road.
Fr. Kirby’s mission had been mandated by Bishop Paul F. Tanner of the Diocese of St. Augustine (before Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese was formed), who declared Good Shepherd’s vast geographic boundary to be all of Leon County that lay north of Interstate 10, which was under construction at the time. It was an area 30 miles wide, reaching to the Georgia state border.
With both physical and spiritual needs demanding attention, Fr. Kirby undertook a plan for a church and invited family involvement through the Good Shepherd Parish Council. Masses at Maclay School continued until 1974, when Fr. Kirby shifted the parish’s growing membership to the Timberlane (now Gilchrist Elementary) School auditorium.
In June 1974, while Tallahassee was still part of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Bishop Tanner reassigned Fr. Kirby to St. Patrick’s Church in Apalachicola. As Good Shepherd's new pastor, the Rev. John V. O’Sullivan, then an assistant in Jacksonville, was to formulate a master plan to systematically provide for Good Shepherd’s future.
First new church in new diocese
In November 1975, Pope Paul VI reduced the expansive Diocese of St. Augustine, lopping off its western territory and creating a Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee with those two cities as “anchors." When Bishop Rene H. Gracida approved plans for Good Shepherd church building late in 1975, it was noteworthy as the first construction project in the new Diocese. Fr. O’Sullivan and the Good Shepherd Parish Council decided the most practical approach would be to erect a building to serve liturgical, recreational and social needs during the growth period.
Groundbreaking for the multipurpose “Little Brown Church in the Vale” took place January 4, 1976. That summer, as America celebrated its Bicentennial, Good Shepherd Parish was finalizing plans for a July 27 th Mass of Dedication. For the ceremony, more than 35 priests from the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, St. Augustine, and Mobile (Alabama) joined Bishop Gracida and Fr. O’Sullivan in the dedication of Good Shepherd’s spiritual home for a flock that had swelled to 110 families. Indeed, the building’s 425-seat capacity easily handled weekend Masses and social events consistent with its stated purpose. Chairs would permanently substitute for traditional pews and kneelers, because of the long-range planned use of the building. The tabernacle area was conveniently recessed to form a permanent chapel.
Fr. O’Sullivan remained at Good Shepherd until May 1979, when he assumed the pastorate of Tallahassee’s Blessed Sacrament Parish.
Good Shepherd’s third (and present) pastor is the Rev. Michael Foley. It has been his task, since May 1979, to direct the policies and activities of a spiritual community experiencing unprecedented growth. The original Associate Pastor of Good Shepherd was Fr. David McCreanor, who became pastor of a fourth capital city parish, St. Louis, located on the Northwest side of Tallahassee. Fr. Kevin Johnson succeeded him and currently serves as Pastor of St. Louis.
Formed and fed we grow
With more than 50 families per year adding their names to Good Shepherd’s roster since 1980, help in the form of extra clergy was in order. Fr. James Flaherty, ordained in 1980, became a regular “assistant” when visiting his family in Tallahassee. Attorney Robert Vossler, ordained Tallahassee’s first permanent deacon in May 1981, immediately provided vital assistance in his Good Shepherd Parish. Then, upon ordination to the Priesthood in October 1984, the Rev. John Kelly was assigned to assist Fr. Foley by Bishop J. Keith Symons, who had replaced Bishop Gracida less than a year earlier.
Meanwhile, extra weekend Masses and parish activities continued to strain the limits of the once spacious building. By 1982, Fr. Foley and the Parish Council made the inevitable decision to construct a church building, as much to accommodate an accelerating number of regularly scheduled functions, meetings, and classroom needs as to host services for the 650-family parish population.
No longer a congregation scattered throughout unincorporated piney woods, Good Shepherd found itself at the center of Tallahassee’s remarkable growth area. It finally was a congregation worshiping in a dedicated church building, complete with pews and kneelers.
Frs. Foley and Kelly, and Mr. Vossler constituted the clergy of Good Shepherd, as the new church building was dedicated April 5, 1986.
Later in 1986, Good Shepherd harvested benefits from both ends of the “experience” timeline. Fr. Rick Castillo, a newly ordained dynamo, took Fr. Kelly’s place, and threw his personality and energy into bolstering the youth program. Fr. Bill Quinlan, a self-confessed “snow-bird golfer," fled Chicago’s bitter cold to spend the winter with his sister, Quin Hansen, and niece, Kathy Herzog, and blessing Good Shepherd with his homilies and published works. This annual blessing was capped in 1988 with a parish celebration of the 50th Anniversary of his ordination. Fr. Bill spent every winter in Tallahassee until his death in January 2002.
Families swell, as does the parish
By August 1989, when Fr. Rick was reassigned as Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Quincy, the Religious Education Program (children and youth) numbered 469 participants, representing about one participant for every two Good Shepherd families. The growth of the youth program prompted the parish to hire its first Youth Minister, Ms Louise Horkan, in the summer of 1989.
Fr. Roger Latosynski replaced Fr. Rick as Associate Pastor, reassigned from St. Dominic Parish in Panama City. Fr. Roger had been ordained a priest in 1984, after a decade in the clergy as a Brother in the Divine Word Missionary order. Parishioner, Mr. Terry Radigan, a retired Washington D.C. attorney, completed the diaconate program and joined our clergy after ordination April 29, 1988. Sister Genevieve Gomez arrived later that same year to assist the parish in the Religious Education program, and to give assistance to Fr. Rick in his growing ministry among Gadsden County’s migrant worker families. Sister Genevieve became Associate Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese and began working in Quincy full time in July 1990.
In 1990, Good Shepherd membership had reached 1,060 families. The Religious Education program had reached 480 (400 in Kindergarten through 8th grade and 80 high schoolers). By 1993, Good Shepherd Parish had grown to 1,400 families. There were 600 in Kindergarten through 8th grade Religious Education Program and 100 high schoolers in the Youth Group.
In March 1992, a Needs Assessment Committee was created to assess Parish Facility Needs and to make recommendations. The committee reported their results to the Parish Council on October 20, 1992. A Facilities Planning Committee was set up to determine how best to accomplish the recommendations of the Needs Assessment Committee. During the latter part of the 1980s, acquiring adjacent property to Good Shepherd became a high priority. These efforts were successful in 1993 when the Good Shepherd acquired the Clark property, adjacent to the entrance. The acquisition of this property was crucial to the planning being done by the Facilities Planning Committee and their final report was delayed until the negotiations regarding the property were completed. The Facilities Planning Committee Report was presented to the Pastoral Council on November 9, 1993. The process of implementing this report was now underway.
A people of prayer
In June of 1993, the Parish Council adopted the concept of a "Pastoral" Council. The change involved the adoption of prayer, scripture and sharing as a way of beginning the Council meetings. In addition, the process of creating Small Christian Communities for the Parish was begun.
On June 19, 1993, Fr. Roger was transferred to St. Margaret Parish, De Funiak Springs and Christ the King Mission, Freeport. Fr. Tom Guido was assigned as Parochial Vicar at Good Shepherd. From Hollywood, Florida, Fr. Tom graduated from FSU and was ordained on May 8, 1987. He had served at Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Niceville and the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Tallahassee prior to coming to Good Shepherd.
On December 16, 1997 the parish lost one of its deacons with the death of Bob Vossler. Bob served at Good Shepherd since his ordination in 1981.
July 2, 1998 marked the beginning of construction for the new Parish Center, church expansion and new parking areas. LLT Construction Company was given the bid for this project. The 25th Anniversary of Good Shepherd Parish and groundbreaking for the facilities expansion were celebrated on July 11, 1998. Construction was substantially completed in November 1999 and Bishop Ricard dedicated the Parish Center and church expansion on January 30, 2000.
Marcus Hepburn was ordained to the permanent diaconate on May 20, 2000. At the end of July the parish bade farewell to Fr. Tom as he left to take up ministry at Port St. Joe. On July 1 Fr. Phil Fortin, who was ordained a priest on June 3, 2000, was assigned as Parochial Vicar to Good Shepherd. Gary Brinkworth was ordained to the permanent diaconate on December 16, 2000.
In May 2005, Fr. Phil Fortin accepted a new appointment as Associate Pastor at St. Mary's in Ft. Walton Beach. Fr. Craig Smith arrived and served as Parochial Vicar from June 2005 to June, 2008. In July, 2008 Fr. Chris Winkeljohn was appointed as Parochial Vicar in his place. Long time parishioner and deacon, Gary Brinkworth, moved to Tennessee in March. Three new deacons were ordained on June 20, 2009: Jerry Haynes, Tom McBrearty and Mark Schneider. An additional priest was added to the clergy here at Good Shepherd in July, 2009, when newly-ordained Fr. Will Ganci arrived. At this time, the number of parish families has grown to 2836. The total number of individual parishioners is 8366, of which 3515 are children.