HISTORY OF GESU CATHOLIC CHURCH
GESÙ CATHOLIC CHURCH was founded as a Church in 1896.
The complete name of the Church is: THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS CATHOLIC CHURCH. The name of Jesus was Italianized calling it GESÙ, which in Italian means Jesus.
The first Catholic family settled at the mouth of the Miami River in 1850. The family of William and Evelyn Wagner purchased several acres of land where Jackson Memorial Hospital is located today. There, a small Catholic chapel was built and services were conducted until 1889. It was destroyed by fire that year. Another Catholic family, that of Joseph and Catherine MacDonald asked Henry Flagler for lands on which to build a new Catholic Church in 1891. Flagler, through a Presbyterian, donated the land and that is where the first Catholic Church was built, just where it remains today in downtown Miami.
The Gesù parish was founded several months before Miami was incorporated as a city in 1896. The first church was built out of wood at a total cost of around $ 3,600.
By 1922, the wooden church proved too small, and the bigger one we see today were built on North East 1st. Avenue and 2nd Street. It seats 800 parishioners. It is a beautiful temple with polychromed crystal leaded widows made in Germany, relating events in the life of Jesus and Mary. All altars are made of Italian Marble.
Gesù and the Armed Forces
Gesù Church welcomed the country’s soldiers as they returned from foreign wars. These soldiers came to worship at Gesu.
It hosted American soldiers that returned to the United States at the end of the Spanish-American War. Many of these Soldiers came from battlegrounds in Cuba and in Puerto Rico.
It also welcomed soldiers and sailors as they returned to thank the Lord for having come home after the First and Second World Wars.
Gesu and the Exiles
Gesu Church received with open arms the Cuban exiles. The Church was a center of peace for those Cubans that had lost everything. Gesù Elementary School educated hundreds of Cuban children that later went on to college. The Church also received the exiles from Nicaragua and the Haitian community. Many of the current Gesu Church faithful are Haitians. They attend frequently to the many activities of the church. The Haitian community, as other Latin American groups, worships at Gesu with delight and devotion to God.
Gesù and Senior Citizens
An old institution at Gesu is the work with the Senior Citizens. For 35 years, Gesu has served them with the utmost dedication. Gesu Church has a Canteen Dining Room for people 65 years and older. Breakfast and lunch are provided daily from Monday through Friday. A full course lunch is served for which the senior citizen pays only a dollar. The Church subsidizes the rest of the cost. Around 55 to 60 persons use the Canteen Dining Room. Two religious sisters run the installation, serving lunch at noon.
Gesu and the Sick
Since the start of the work of the Jesuits in Miami, the priests have worked with the sick. Until 2002, Jesuit priests have served as chaplains at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Veterans’ Hospital and Cedars of Lebanon Hospital.
Due to lack of vocations, Gesù has discontinued this service. Diocesan priests are doing it now. But through the Dominican Sisters of Gesu, we keep on visiting, not the hospitals, but only the Convalescent Homes within the parish limits. The sick of the parish