For Sarasota Catholic community's Padre, a legacy of service provides hope, inspiration.

by John Howell Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Father Celestino Gutiérrez's focus did not change when he arrived in Sarasota in 1985 after 17 years as a missionary in Guatemala, where he built churches and a hospital and supported a rural cooperative movement during a dark period of civil war.

"I have been a priest with the same agenda all my life," Gutiérrez said.

Only 17 people attended his first Mass for Spanish speakers at St. Martha's Catholic Church, a time when Latino Americans represented less than 1% of Sarasota's population. Hispanics are 10% of Sarasota residents today.
Known communitywide as "Padre," Father Celestino Gutiérrez was ordained on June 24, 1964 – the same month and day as the groundbreaking for St. Jude Church in 2004.

"The increase of newcomers from other states and other countries has filled our pews, classrooms and my heart," said Gutiérrez, who is retiring after 39 years in Sarasota – the last 18 as founding pastor of St. Jude Catholic Church. After building a legacy of compassion, good works, and goodwill, his final bilingual communal mass as pastor is Sunday at noon.

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Thank You!

The St. Jude Church/Hispanic-American Center was awarded a $9,000 grant in November 2022, from the Kathleen K. Catlin Foundation of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The Community Foundation funds are specifically used for the Church’s Program for the Needy, which distributes food during the Holiday Season and is a supplemental resource for St. Jude’s Food Pantry.

For the 2022 Holiday Season, grant funds, in part, were used to purchase 450 food cards to families who registered for the Christmas Program. Total families registered reflect 960 children. During these difficult times with food prices and unemployment on the rise, the Community Foundation provides some relief to those in need.

Father Celestino Gutierrez, Pastor of St. Jude Parish, expresses his sincere gratitude to the Kathleen K. Catlin Foundation for their support.

La Iglesia de San Judas/Centro Hispanoamericano recibió una subvención (o beca) de $9,000 en noviembre del 2022, de la Fundación Comunitaria del Condado de Sarasota, Kathleen K. Catlin. Los fondos de la Fundación Comunitaria se utilizan específicamente para el Programa para los Necesitados de la Iglesia, que distribuye alimentos durante la temporada Navideña y es un recurso complementario para la despensa de alimentos de la Iglesia de san Judas.

Para la temporada Navideña del 2022, los fondos de la subvención, en parte, se utilizaron para comprar 450 tarjetas de alimentos para familias que se registraron en el Programa de Navidad. El total de familias registradas refleja 960 niños. Durante estos tiempos difíciles con los precios de los alimentos y el desempleo en aumento, la Fundación Comunitaria brinda algo de alivio a los necesitados.

El Padre Celestino Gutiérrez, Párroco de la Parroquia de San Judas, expresa su sincera gratitud a la Fundación Kathleen K. Catlin por su apoyo.

UNITY AWARDS ALUMS - Father Celestino Gutiérrez Believes in the Golden Rule

Click here to read the article from Sarasota Magazine 3/2/2021

Where are you now?

“My life as a priest, pastor of a bilingual Catholic Church/ Hispanic-American Center, does not change in terms of routine duties, which include weekly services, funeral masses, 15 year-old celebrations, baptisms, weddings, and the occasional service that is directed to a special event, such as a Patron Saint’s Day. What increased was the number of visits to the elderly, couples and singles, who need company, conversation, and attention.”

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced lately?

“My vocation, by definition, exposes me every day to the lives of my community. Family issues, illnesses, deaths, immigration worries, and the basics of life: loss of jobs, rent payments, and our church food pantry’s operations.

“I am challenged by people who need to feel protected and come for counsel. I am concerned with the young Hispanics in our community who are struggling between one language, one culture at home and another language, culture outside. It is important that they don’t lose their mother tongue and know they can participate in both arenas.

“The most significant issue has been the recent Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected all of us in the United States and the world. Travel has been seriously limited. I was unable to go to my native Spain this year, missing a family baptism, funeral, and my annual vacation.

“It hurt to see my church closed; no Masses, no people kneeling in prayer and our pews sadly empty. In response to the Hispanic community needs, I am doing a weekly Sunday radio Mass in Spanish which is heard in both Sarasota and Manatee counties. Once we super-sanitized the church and received authority to re-open, parishioners came back but in small numbers.”

Where are you making a difference?

“In my church the response to the Covid-19 crisis was a remarkable tribute to the faith and active approach of our community. Proper health protocols were established with full cooperation. Food and checks were donated. Time was donated to maintain the sanitary levels. Phone banks checked on the elderly. Bilingual assistance was available for rent, utilities, electricity payments. And, amazingly, a 2020 vehicle was donated as a raffle item, resulting in a $50,000 gift to the church. Through the years St. Jude has been blessed with volunteers who are dedicated to our mission of helping others. I witness this in awe and in gratitude. Donors regularly support the Food Pantry. Our ministries include migrant help in Myakka, Jail Counseling, Youth Group Workshops.”

What are you counseling people to practice?

“Time, patience and prayer are needed for any project to succeed. ”

What behaviors will help to heal our divides?

“We are all individuals with backgrounds that don’t always match. We must learn from one another. St. Jude, with its multiple nationalities represented, encourages tolerance by its very existence. Our many activities bring together the Hispanic and the Anglo communities to study, to pray, to work for others, and to appreciate the values of the opposition. We share examples of discrimination, racial profiling, bullying and ways to reject these behaviors and embrace tolerance and inclusion.”

Do you feel hopeful at this point in history?

“I am always hopeful that people will understand the need to work together. The political divide is worrisome, but my faith tells me we are stronger and unity will return. Leadership, poised to do just that, is one way. The Golden Rule (‘Do unto others…’) is always a good practice, too.”

Morality of Using Covid-19 Vaccine

Phishing Email Attacks

Several parishioners received this email on Friday 6/5/2020. Please DO NOT reply to this email. This is a scam. Note that Father Celestino does not have a Gmail account. His email address is Here is an example of what the SCAM EMAIL looks like