Historic marker installed at Mission Nombre de Dios
By Michael Isam
Special to Historic City News
With medals and medallions flashing in the sun, the Florida State Society, Daughters of the American Revolution held a ceremony to install a historic marker on the grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios.
The marker reads “In this vicinity on September 8, 1565, having arrived with Pedro Menendez de Aviles and Spanish citizens, father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza led the first parish mass in what is now the United States of America. At a rustic makeshift altar, father Lopez offered mass in honor of the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, its feast day of the same day. Following the liturgy, the Spaniards and the Timucuan Indians shared a meal. The Spaniards named this site “Nombre de Dios” or “Name of God”.
“The motto of the National Society is God, Home, and Country and, with that in mind,” said Regent Donna Cullen with the Florida State Society, “it is fitting and proper we install this marker.”
Prior to the outdoor ceremony, more than 50 members, some travelling 5 hours or more to attend, gathered in the meeting room of the mission museum to hear greetings from the regent, introduction of dignitaries and guests.
“I have never felt a presence like this anywhere,” Dawn Lemongello, State Historian and State Marker Chairman, remarked to the standing-room-only audience. Emotions she discovered about the history of the mission and its meaning to her came to the fore. Lemongello stopped more than once during a sometimes tearful delivery.
“We are historians, not only of family history, but also of our country,” Lemongello said; as she outlined the lengthy DAR process of installing a historical marker. “We have to be absolutely certain that what a marker stands for is true and correct.”
Eric Johnson, Director of the Mission Nombre de Dios, gave a short history of the mission — remarking that after the blessing and naming of the mission, the Spanish and Timucuans shared a feast marking, “the truly first Thanksgiving on this continent.”
Johnson then turned the floor over to Dr. Michael Gannon, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Florida. Gannon, considered a foremost authority on the Spanish colonial history of Florida, spoke briefly and eloquently on the history of the landing and the participants.
The gathering proceeded outdoors travelling over the bridge and turning toward the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche. The marker was dedicated and blessed by Father Tom Willis, Rector of Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine.
Photo credits: © 2013 Historic City News contributed photograph by Michael Isam