The History of Holy Spirit Catholic Parish and School
            The history of Holy Spirit School begins with the story of Holy Spirit Parish. On January 17, 1966, Father Richard J. Bowles became administrator of Holy Spirit parish. The first Mass was celebrated in the Beacon Hills Clubhouse on February 13, 1966. At that time, the parish consisted of only 60 families.
            On March 20, 1966, permission was granted to rent property at 1621 Holly Oaks Lake Road to serve as a home for the priest and to be a meeting place for parishioners. A chapel was incorporated for the offering of daily Mass.
            A decree from the diocese of St. Augustine on March 25, 1966 officially named the parish, “The Church of the Holy Spirit.” The parish boundaries were set as; the St. John’s River on the north, Gilmore Heights Rd. on the west, Atlantic Blvd. on the south, and the Intercoastal Waterway on the east.
            By July 1966, the celebration of the liturgy had to be moved into the Knights of Columbus Hall on Merrill Rd. because of the need for additional space. By November 1968, there were 73 registered families in the parish, and Father R. Joseph James was named as Father Bowles successor.
            In February 1970, a request was made to Bishop Tanner to build a church and parish hall. The Church of the Holy Spirit became a reality on October 3, 1971 when the dedication ceremonies took place with Bishop Tanner officiating. The accompanying rectory building at 11663 Ft. Caroline Rd. was completed in June 1974.
            Father Ed Rooney became Pastor for a brief time after Father James and then Monsignor Dawson served for the next six years. In 1985, Monsignor James Heslin was appointed Pastor and remained in that position for 22 years.
            In the late 1980’s Msgr. Heslin recognized the rapid growth in the East Arlington area and contacted veteran Catholic school principals Rosemary Spraggins and Anna Voss for information on starting Holy Spirit School. After a great deal of planning and searching, Mrs. Janet Mato was hired as the school’s very first pre-school teacher. With guidance from Dr. Kay Johnson, an early childhood specialist at Jacksonville University, the school opened on September 5, 1988 with a class of 12 four year-old children.
            During the following year, the school enrollment grew to forty-two children in two pre-school classes and a Kindergarten. By 1991, seventy-four children where enrolled at the school, a First grade class was added, and the process of adding one grade level per year was begun. Janet Mato was the original Director of the Pre-school program and then Theresa Moore was named as the school’s first Principal in 1991.
By 1990, the parish consisted of over 600 families and under the leadership of Monsignor Heslin, construction was begun on a newer and larger church. On Easter Sunday, 1992 (with the use of rented folding chairs), the first Mass was celebrated in our beautiful church on Ft. Caroline Rd. On September 20, 1992, Bishop John Snyder blessed the church.
            By August of 1995, the rear addition was added to the school to house the primary grade classes, and in 1999 another addition was completed which included a state-of-art library and computer lab. The school graduated its first class of 8th graders in May 2000. In December of that same year, the school received its initial accreditation status from the Florida Catholic Conference.
            With the retirement of Theresa Moore in July 2002, Dr. John A. Luciano was hired as principal and immediately set about the business of renaming the school’s library in honor of Mrs. Moore for her many years of leadership and service to the school.
            Enrollment remained steady from 2001 to 2004 and reached an all-time high of 274 students in August of 2005. The student population has remained almost entirely middle-class social-economic level children. The number of Filipino students has increased over the last decade, and the percentage of college-educated parents has remained very high throughout the school’s brief history.
A school wide closed-circuit television system and ceiling mounted televisions and DVD players were installed in most classrooms in 2004. The original building plan for Holy Spirit School complex was completed in October 2005 with the opening of a brand new Msgr. Heslin Parish Center and gymnasium. This building had been in the planning stages for several years and a parish-wide capital campaign was necessary to make it a reality. The building now hosts numerous social functions, student performances on the elevated stage, and athletic events.
In July of 2006, Holy Spirit Parish was blessed to have joined them Pastor, Father Anand Maddineni, who succeeded Msgr. James Heslin. Shortly after his arrival, several new ministries were established at the parish, including a monthly adult faith formation program, student Rosary Club, and a growing Men’s group. Father Anand received orders to return to his home country of India as a Pastor of Holy Cross Church and School.
Monsignor Keith Brennan. Msgr. Brennan was Pastor from July 2012 until June 2013. Father Anthony Bonela, MSFS, became Pastor from July 2013 until June 2017. Father Amar Nath Nagothu. MSFS, became the Pastor from June 2017 until July 2023.Father John Peter Arul, MSFS, is the current Pastor of Holy Spirit Catholic Church. We look forward to his spiritual guidance and leadership.
As we move into the 21st century, our prayers are that Holy Spirit School will continue to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and prepare students to solve problems with creativity and work cooperatively to serve the Lord and others.