About Our Parish

History of St. Philip Neri in Miami Gardens

The history of our religious family began in Miami in the early 1940's with the establishment of Saint Mary's Mission in Overtown. Miami's first all Black Catholic Church was placed under the title and patronage of Saint Francis Xavier. In 1951, an outreach mission of Saint Francis began in the new residential development known as Bunche Park. For the first few years, Mass was celebrated in a vacant store in the Bunche Park Shopping Center and in various homes. The home of Mrs. Margaret Roberts was the site of the first Holy Communion Mass.

Our First Pastor

The first priest assigned for Mass on a regular basis was the late Monsignor Rowan Rastatter. In 1952, the congregation welcomed its first full-time pastor, the late Monsignor Joseph H. DeVaney. Father Joe, as he was affectionately called, was more than a pastor; he was a friend and a builder, a rock upon which Saint Philip Neri would stand and grow. In 1953, Mr. Ben Gaines of Gaines Construction Company, the builder of Bunche Park, donated the land for the church. The late Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. Lewis of Chicago, who had relatives in Miami, donated money for the Spanish-style structure with a distinctive bell tower. In September of 1953, the membership moved to the current building. On February 28, 1954, Archbishop Joseph T. Hurley dedicated the church and placed the congregation under the patronage of Saint Philip Neri.Many of the current families of the church were present in the earlier years and their legacies live on-Ambrose, Albert, Bethel, Colebrook, Davis, Gaither, Gowan, Lewis, Livingston, Miller, Pridgeon, Roberts, Smith, Taylor and Washington-just to name a few. For many years, the parish operated as a Mission under the direction of the pastors of Holy Redeemer. Later, the Redemptorist Fathers of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Opa-Locka served at Saint Philip Neri. Among these, Fathers Barry and Wright are especially remembered. In September 1966, the Catechetical Center for children and adults was blessed by Archbishop Coleman Carroll. Religion classes were conducted by the Oblate Sisters of Providence and the Josephite Fathers. The three education spaces of the Center also served as a social hall. In 1968, a further physical expansion was made with the addition of a rectory in the rear of the church. At this time, Saint Philip Neri was consecrated as a parish. Fathers O'Connell and Hennessy were among the firsts priests to occupy the new quarters. The membership has always cherished faithful sacristans, whose duties included taking care of the church's buildings and property. During these years, the parish encouraged and participated in various government sponsored programs to improve the quality of life of all our neighbors in Bunche Park. Perhaps the most creative contribution was the establishment of the Guardian Angel Day Care Center and Kindergarten in 1980, under the leadership of Father Charles Jackson, our church's only black pastor.

Church Renovations

Father Jackson was succeeded by Fathers Neil Doherty, Kenneth Whittaker and Liam Quinn. The 1980's saw the establishment of a building fund and an increased effort of parish support. The hard work and generosity of parishioners accomplished a beautiful renovation and re-decoration of the church building and a landscaping project that won special recognition from neighbors in the Bunche Park neighborhood. In 1987, upon the invitation of Father Whittaker, the Sisters of Saint Joseph Benedict Cottolengo of the Marian Center "adopted" Saint Philip Neri as their parish. The Sisters' contribution in every area of parish life, and particularly in the religious instruction of our children and youth, continues to be one of our greatest blessings. In 1991, Archbishop Edward McCarthy entrusted the pastoral care of Saint Philip Neri to the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate. Father Stephen Conserva, O.M.I., was the first Oblate priest to serve as pastor. In September 1993, Father John R. Madigan, O.M.I., became pastor at Saint Philip. Under his leadership, the Parish House was added to the church's property and used for religious education classes and meetings by church organizations. On April 30, 1998, the family Christian Association of America began operating a Headstart Program in the church's hall. Graduation Sunday continues to present a forum to uplift students from Saint Philip Neri Catholic Church at all levels (kindergarten, middle school, high school, undergraduate and post graduate) and to provide them with support to reach for the next educational level. On November 21, 1998, Saint Philip also received an added blessing of having Deacon Thomas Dawson, join Deacon James White (deceased) as the second ordained deacon of our church. Saint Philip, along with its "Sister Black Catholic Churches" plans and participates in weeklong revivals. This annual activity rivals the uplifting, spiritual revival atmosphere of our neighboring Protestant churches. In addition, Bible study continues as a regular part of the church's weekly program and periodically members are encouraged to participate in Bring a Friend to Church Sunday.

50 Years of St. Philip Neri

In 2003, Saint Philip Neri celebrated its 50th Anniversary with evidence of faith and religious works. The church commemorated fifty years of precious memories of celebrating the Holy Eucharist, which included Masses for Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmations, Holy Matrimony and Christian Burial. Under the direction of Father Madigan, with input from the dedicated Parish Council, the church continued to enjoy God's blessings. The Men's' Club; the Ladies Guild; the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul; the Sacristan; the Young Adult Ministry; the Evangelization Committee; the Recording/Corresponding Secretary; the Community and Fellowship Committee; the Finance Committee; the Youth Group; Ushers; the Church Historian Committee; the Wellness and Health Prevention Committee; the Adult, Youth, Young Adult, and Men's Choirs; the Altar Society; the Religious Education Ministry; Lectors; Altar Servers; and Eucharistic Ministers all participate in the work of the Lord. At the root of all of these, we recognize and celebrate the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who through His Holy Spirit continues to bless and build up His Body here at Saint Philip Neri Catholic Church. Under the spiritual guidance of Father John Madigan and God's grace, this church has made great accomplishments for the glory of God. Father John R. Madigan, Jr. was our treasure for fourteen years. As of September 15, 2007, he began his new assignment as the Spiritual Moderator for the fundraising arm of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Belleville, Illinois. We pray for his safety, health and spiritual success. He is dearly loved by the members of Saint Philip Neri Church and members of the surrounding church communities. On September 16, 2007, Rev. Dr. Gerard R. Bolduc, O.M.I, became pastor of St. Philip Neri Catholic Parish. Father Gerry, as he is affectionately called, was presented with recognition of appreciation in honor of his 39th Ordination and 1st Anniversary at St. Philip on September 16, 2008. He has served on the leadership team for Worldwide Marriage Encounter for more than thirty years and is instrumental in offering married couples the gift of a weekend experience to enrich their relationship. He is well known for his great talent of praising and honoring God through his anointed singing of gospels and hymns.


The Archdiocese of Miami’s Office of Black Catholic Affairs honored our parish's "Pioneers for Christ" on March 15, 2009. The recipients of this award were recognized for their outstanding contributions, great spiritual commitment and financial sacrifices to lay the foundation for our beloved St. Philip Neri Parish: Lillian Ambrose (deceased), Bernice Bethel, Estelene Colebrook, Albert Davis, Hattie Gadshaw (deceased), Claretha Lewis, Eloise Livingston (deceased), Ethel Miller (deceased), Vernet Pegues, Margaret Roberts (deceased), Ethel Smith (deceased), Marion Golden Smith (deceased) and Evangeline Taylor.


On Sunday, May 24, 2009, St. Philip Neri parishioners were deeply saddened when Father Bolduc read a letter from Archbishop John C. Favalora at the end of Mass. The subject of the letter was the current pastoral needs of the archdiocese and the possibly of restructuring some parishes. The following Sunday, May 31, 2009, a second letter from Archbishop Favalora was read proposing the restructuring of up to fourteen of the one hundred twenty-eight parishes. On Sunday, August 16, 2009, a final letter was received from the Archbishop announcing the permanent closing of our church. He stated that the church must be vacated by October 1, 2009. He also announced the closing of twelve more churches including our beloved mother church, St. Frances Xavier. On Sunday, September 27, 2009, the final Mass was celebrated. People came from far and near to celebrate with our St. Philip Neri Church Family. There were smiles, laughter, and many tears shed realizing that this was the end. We know that the church is still its people, and we continue to have faith in a loving God that would never forsake us. We continued to hope and pray that our St. Philip Neri Church Family would be reunited and that somehow we will be stronger and wiser. Over the Past two years, the tireless efforts of parishioners, with additional guidance from Guardian Angels, have resulted in joyous news. Steps have been taken to initiate the reopening of St. Philip Neri.


When are masses held?

Our parish's schedule of masses is available by calling the church office or viewing our online calendar. Read More

How do I become Catholic?

We're glad you asked! We welcome you to contact the church office to meet with our pastor. We've also provided some introductory answers on this website. Read More

Where is the church located?

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