Catholic life in Sanford, a Seminole County town, dates back to 1882, making it one of the oldest in Catholic history in Central Florida. The All Souls' Church that was destroyed by fire in 1931 was built in 1887-1888 by the first missionary of the Diocese of St. Augustine in the area, Father Swembergh. He went to Orlando in 1886 as resident priest and took charge of the four-year-old Central Florida missions in Maitland and Sanford that were begun in 1882 by Father McFaul, a priest from St. Louis, Missouri. He held Mass at Doyle’s Livery Stable, Sanford.
All Souls’ cornerstone, laid on July 4, 1887, showed that Protestants and Jews had been benefactors of the frame church with its beautiful interior and exterior. It was painted white, had four pillars in front, a gabled roof, and was rectangular in shape. Father Fox of Orlando tended to the Sanford mission until the spring of 1911 when Rev. Patrick J. Bresnahan became the first resident priest. In 1915, Bishop Curley sent Father Bresnahan to Tallahassee where he was able to be influential in combating anti-Catholic state legislation. Father Bresnahan’s ministry was chiefly to non-Catholics for five years after he left All Souls. But Sanford Catholics dated the time when all the sacraments were administered regularly to them from 1911, when Father Bresnahan arrived.
All Souls Catholic Women’s Club was begun in the late 1920’s, and is affiliated with the DCCW. The Holy Name Society, reactivated in 1951, became the Men’s Club. The first school, organized in 1913, closed after one year of operation. Different sources give different dates when the original church burned. It was during the pastorate of Rev. James J. McInerney, who served between September 1, 1930 and August 31, 1932. Whether it burned in September, 1931 or in January, 1932, it was in the midst of Florida’s economic depression and parishioners had to work five years to rebuild a church on the same property. They were poor, but they rebuilt it with their own hands. It cost $28,000, but its value was many times that sum.
Mass was offered, in the interim, in a two-story building Father Bresnahan had built, with the first floor used as chapel and the second as rectory. The new church, of stucco with red tiled roof and tall rectangular windows of colored glass, has a choir loft at the rear. The church seated 430 persons when Bishop Barry dedicated it in 1937, during the pastorate of Rev. John J. Kelleghan.
Rev. William J. Nachtrab, pastor between 1942-1950, rented a house for a rectory and his successor, Rev. Anthony McGowan, bought the rectory at the corner of Oak Street and Eighth Avenue in January, 1951. During the pastorate of Rev. Richard J. Lyons, who was ordained in the Society of the Divine Word, All Souls School once more was established and staffed with the first Sisters of Christian Charity to serve in Florida. Their pupils numbered 165. The school opened on September 7, 1954, in a garage on land purchased by the parish. A hall and permanent school were built in 1960, and in 1981, a multi-purpose center and an addition on the school were built. Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine were on the staff from 1978 to 1983. Laity carried on until the arrival in 1987 of Ursuline nuns. Today, All Soul's Catholic School continues to expand its science and technology labs. The current enrollment is 300 students.
In addition to the Societies already mentioned, the parish educates an additional 400 students in its Fatih Formation Program. In 1987, there were 750 families at All Souls and today there are over 1,400 families calling All Souls home. Fr. Richard W. Trout was named pastor in 1993.
All Souls' ministries serve the people of the Sanford area – providing tremendous amounts of food, clothing and shelter to those in need, care for the unborn, small children, the elderly and those homebound is a constant concern for the people of All Souls. Healthy and happy married couples caring and loving their children in a nurturing atmosphere is very important to the people of All Souls.
Today All Souls Catholic Parish is growing faster than ever. The parish has completed the beautiful new church on SR 46. The next phase will be the building of the new school.