History of the Shrine of Saint Philomena

The annual procession in honor of St. Philomena in the streets of the Little Havana, Miami. August 2019.

Saint Philomena’s founding was a landmark moment for Catholics in Miami: it was here that the faithful could assist at Traditional Latin Mass in a real church.

A Latin Mass Shrine

When Vatican II let to radical alterations of the Mass, many Miami Catholics flocked to Assumption Ukrainian Catholic Church in their desire for authentic, reverent, and fully Catholic liturgy. They yearned for their own rite, however, feeling as many do that when it comes to liturgy, Rome is home.

And so, they began to organize themselves: priests were flown in from all over the country at great expense to offer Holy Mass in private homes, halls and hotels. Mass was said regularly for a time in the Woodlawn Park Cemetery chapel. And for a while, a Society of Saint Pius X priest came south from Davie each Sunday.

Fr. Gunther Richter

Finally in 1988, Fr. Gunther Richter, R.l.P., who went nowhere without a First Class relic of Saint Philomena in his pocket, obtained a church building and named it after the saint to whom he was so devoted.

Fr. Timothy Hopkins

Fr. Timothy Hopkins, an English convert from Anglicanism, replaced Fr. Richter in 1989. He testified that his relationship with Saint Philomena was transformed after visiting her Mugnano shrine the very year he arrived to Miami. Upon petitioning Rome, he was given permission to establish our church as a national shrine in the saint’s honor, and was granted a first class relic of St Philomena.

During this time, our Lord providentially affirmed the shrine through the Church’s own highest authorities, with letters from Ecclesia Dei’s Cardinal Mayer affirming the community’s “legitimate aspirations,” and not just one, but two apostolic blessings of Saint Philomena’s community from Pope John Paul II.

Fr. Rueda

It was thanks to Father Rueda that the Saint Philomena Community continued to survive after losing a legal battle for their original building in 1992. Through his many friends in the Cuban exile community, he found a suitable building in our current location, in Little Havana.

Father Hopkins, a longtime friend and collaborator of the SSPX, had requested that the shrine be given to the charge of the Society upon his death. He had a very special devotion to the Holy Souls of Purgatory, and so while his passing in 2011 came too soon for those who knew him, it was a sign of Divine Providence that he passed on the feast of the holy souls.

We who attend St. Philomena’s -now transferred to Davie- are immensely grateful to the SSPX priests for having continued to feed us with the true nourishment of the Mass of All Time, and the fullness of the Catholic Faith.