One of the oldest parishes in the diocese, St. Vincent Ferrer, consists of over 2800 families from many cultural backgrounds. Though the First Mass offered in Delray Beach is believed to have been in the home of the O’Malley Family in 1920, it was not until April 15th, 1941, that Father William Nachtrab (pastor of Sacred Heart in Lake Worth) offered Mass in the Delray Theatre for this new “mission.” It was around this time that St. Vincent Ferrer was declared a parish, and Father William Carroll became the first pastor. Barely eight months later, our country would become involved in World War II. Since this didn’t seem to be the best of times to develop a parish, it was necessary that a truly visionary pastor would one day have to head this young, but fast-growing flock that stretched from Boynton Beach to Deerfield Beach.
In May of 1944, Father John J. Kellaghan was named second pastor of the fledgling parish. With some lots donated by the Giordano Family, and additional ones purchased by the pastor, the first steps to meet an expanding Catholic population at the war’s end were initiated. A private residence at 42 S. Federal Highway had already served as both a rectory and the chapel for daily Mass. During his remarkable nineteen years of devoted service, Father Kellaghan oversaw the rapid growth of the parish and the construction of many of the buildings that currently enhance the grounds. This was only part of the remarkable achievements that this man of vision accomplished during his tenure.
The first church of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish (later converted into a parish hall) had a seating capacity of five hundred persons. On April 26th, 1949, the first Mass in the church was celebrated by the pastor. It later was dedicated by Auxiliary Bishop Thomas McDonough of St. Augustine, on May 20th, 1949.
The Sisters of St. Joseph from Lake Worth held religious education classes each Saturday in the church, but the need for a parish school became evident to Father Kellaghan and the parishioners. In May of 1955, the building of the parish school began. On August 25th, 1955, four Sisters of Mercy from Kinsale, Ireland, arrived at the parish, and began their ministry here. Eager to begin their work, the Sisters even started classes in temporary quarters before the school was completed. Then, on October 25th, the parish students from kindergarten through sixth grade entered their newly completed school for the first time.
In April of 1960, St. Vincent’s (and the Diocese of Miami) was additionally blessed with the arrival of the Poor Clare Nuns from New Jersey. They were the first cloistered contemplative community in the state. By July, there were five Poor Clares, and they lived in their newly remodeled, albeit primitive, quarters. As their foundation (community) expanded, the need for a larger monastery was sought, and, in 1968, the Poor Clare Sisters moved to a newer location a few miles away.