St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church has come a long way since its first Mass nearly 20 years ago.
Back then, there were 50 people who showed up for services in a Tampa Palms storefront. Today, membership at the Cross Creek Boulevard house of worship has swelled to more than 3,100 families. Space is tight.
St. Mark’s recently launched the second phase of its capital campaign to build a new church on its 28-acre property.
Cyndi Letzeisen, director of stewardship and development, said more than $4 million has been pledged and $2.1 million collected for the project. Five million dollars in cash is required to begin construction, which is expected to last 15 months.
The vision calls for a nearly 40,000-square-foot church. A piazza will connect the new building to the existing Family Life Center, a multipurpose building where services are currently held. The Family Life Center, built in 2000, will be transformed into New Tampa Center to host weddings, banquets and concerts.
New Tampa Center could accommodate those outside the St. Mark’s community.
“There is not another event hall in this area that seats over 500 for banquets and over 900 for theater,” Letzeisen said. “It can be a hub for arts in the area.”
St. Mark’s is willing to sell the center's naming rights to an entity outside the Catholic community.
Letzeisen said the center will be the second catalyst for growth in New Tampa sparked by St. Mark's. When the Diocese of St. Petersburg closed on the St. Mark’s property in January 1993, it required that money received for the land be used to build a bridge over the creek. At that time, Letzeisen said, Cross Creek Boulevard ended by the fire station. The construction of the bridge helped usher in new development and the expansion of Cross Creek Boulevard.
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Letzeisen said St. Mark’s is growing by about 25 new families every month. Sunday services are packed.
“We want this to become the spiritual hub,” she said of the construction project.
The Rev. David DeJulio, current pastor at St. Mark’s, speaks about the need for another church in a video on the St. Mark’s website. He said his flock consists of inter-generational and multicultural families.
Like New Tampa itself, St. Mark’s is not getting any less populated.
“The growth of the Catholic faith in our community is evident,” he said.
Visit the capital campaign page on the St. Mark's website.