|St. Peter, 1908. Archives of the Diocese of St. Augustine|
It's hard to think about Florida - fourth most populous U.S. state - as once being mission territory. But the archival literature references Fr. Curley as a missionary priest who pedaled and pushed his bicycle for hours from DeLand to New Smyrna, where he got on the train. That's a good 20 to 25 miles. He then pedaled some more, between stations along the coast.
Clergy were spread thin in frontier Florida, and persevered amid challenges. There wasn't a resident priest from Daytona south to Palm Beach. The Rev. Michael F. Foley of Baltimore spent a good portion of 1885 to 1893 ministering to DeLand and surrounding areas, despite being in "broken-down health." After he left, the Rev. John O'Brien of Palatka came to DeLand once a month to offer Mass. Fr. Curley arrived in 1904. A diocesan missionary priest named the Rev. P.J. Bresnahan helped spread the Gospel in "DeLand's vast mission field," as the entire Central East area was called, but I'm not sure how long he stayed after his 1906 efforts. Fr. Curley, described as zealous, devoted the second Sunday of each month to the missions.
Concurrent with mission work, a structured worship schedule took form in the growing DeLand parish. Here's a look at the program in about 1906:
- Sundays, November to May: High Mass with sermon in morning; Rosary, sermon, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the evening
- Sundays, June to October: Low Mass with sermon, followed by Benediction, in morning
- Way of the Cross on Fridays in Lent
- First Friday "faithfully observed"
- Sunday School "never omitted"