Jack and Carol Benge remember the humble beginnings of Epiphany Catholic Church 50 years ago, when Masses were celebrated in the Palmetto Women's Club and Library, folding chairs served as pews and the altar was a collapsible picnic table with an altar cloth draped over it. Despite the many changes, the Port Orange church has experienced throughout the years, one thing has remained constant – the sense of family among those who walk through their doors.
"The people are what make this church so special," said Jack Benge, a founding member of Epiphany Catholic Church. "From the very founding of this parish, the uniqueness of the people, the lovingness, and the willingness to work hard to make this parish grow is wonderful. There is so much love here."
The Benges, along with their daughter and son-in-law, Joanie and Steve Hunt, were among the approximately 400 people participating in the culminating event of a year-long celebration commemorating the parish's golden jubilee -- the celebration of Mass with Bishop John Noonan, fittingly celebrated on Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.
Bishop Noonan congratulated the congregation, noting that their church's history is tied to another historic moment in the Catholic Church's history.
"Archbishop (Joseph) Hurley was not present for the naming and announcing of this new parish," he said. "In fact, he was in Rome for the opening of Vatican Council II, and that was part of his plan because on that day, Oct. 11, 1962, he had left orders that so many parishes were to be named and founded. So, in a real sense, you are the children of the Vatican Council."
Bishop Noonan commended the many priests, administrators and ministry leaders who had helped grow Epiphany into the parish it now is. Still, he offered special praises to the people.
"You have given of yourself," Bishop Noonan said. "You have taken the words of St. Paul seriously and the stewardship of God's grace to heart because you have shared your time, your talent and your treasure to make Epiphany a church that truly reflects the presence of the Lord."
Father John Bosco, parochial vicar, echoed Bishop Noonan's sentiment.
"Our fathers laid the foundation," he said. "It is now our turn to take the treasures of the Gospel and apply them to our time and space. It is time for our generation to continue to work for the good of all so that anybody who turns to this faithful community will not find himself or herself as a stranger, but part of God's loving community."