© St. Petersburg Times, published September 28, 2002
HOLIDAY -- When the winter residents who attend St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church return, they might not recognize it.
The church recently put the finishing touches on its $500,000 interior renovation that transformed a dark, dated hall into an elegant, airy sanctuary.
"One lady said, 'Father, you took us out of darkness into light,' " said the Rev. Paul Goudreau, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul.
It's quite an accomplishment for a parish composed largely of retirees with limited incomes. Membership stands at 2,500.
"They're not wealthy people, but they're very committed," said Goudreau, who started with four donated stained-glass windows and ended up with a whole new church.
The windows, donated by Ladycliff College in Highland Falls, N.Y., depict the Blessed Mother, the Sacred Heart, St. Bonaventure and St. Francis. But with six slots to fill, the four windows weren't enough.
So Goudreau commissioned the work of Victor Berthelsdorf of Kaleidoscope Glass Works in Lutz. Berthelsdorf crafted two more windows nearly identical in design and color scheme. The new ones depict St. Cecelia and St. Vincent de Paul.
"That's my pride and joy," Goudreau said of the window of the church's patron. St. Vincent de Paul, a Frenchman who founded an order of priests and is most famous for his work with the poor, is depicted giving bread to a hungry person.
Berthelsdorf designed the frames for all six windows, made repairs and added glass panels on the outside to match the center designs. For two new windows, he had to start from scratch.
The altar has been rebuilt using marble and granite, with Italian porcelain tiles for detail. Goudreau bought several rugs at a flea market in Hudson with green accents that pick up the color in the altar and pew coverings. The pews are back in place after being shipped to Tennessee to be refinished. They came back with a slightly lighter, golden hue, the exact color of the new decorative oak wall behind the altar.
A skylight illuminates a hanging basswood crucifix sculpted by local artist Rick Bagabaldo. Bagabaldo, who is originally from the Philippines, said he designed the piece from a picture the church gave him. He works for Watra Church Goods Co. as a contract worker and also does freelance woodcarving.
The sculpture is known as a corpus, depicting Christ on the cross.
"Who would have thought right here in Pasco County you would find all this -- a sculptor, a glass artist," Goudreau said.
In the renovation, Goudreau incorporated as much as he could from the old sanctuary. He hung the same stations of the cross on the walls and put the old tabernacle up on the new altar.
Goudreau made all this come together $15,000 under budget. Two bequests provided the backbone of the financing, so he didn't have to hold any fund drives. And a $100,000 loan he arranged from the diocese hasn't even been needed -- so far.
The 68-year-old priest, who grew up in Rumford, Maine, was No. 10 of 11 children. He's been a priest for 42 years, 30 of them spent in religious order. He has a picture in his office of himself among a large group of priests at the first Mass ever celebrated by Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1978.
His oldest brother, George, is a retired priest in the Diocese of Portland, Maine. His younger brother, Joseph, is a military chaplain at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va.
Now that the renovations are complete, Goudreau says he's relieved. He's most pleased with how much brighter the church looks and feels inside.
The monthslong renovation culminated with a rededication ceremony Sept. 21, presided over by Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church is at 4843 Mile Stretch Drive, Holiday. Masses are 7:30 and 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday and 7:30, 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday. For information, call 727-938-1974.