For years, Cathy Cardinal was a spiritual pilgrim, filing into government offices in Viera to take Holy Communion while praying alongside her fellow believers for a permanent place to worship.
“After a while, the government building got too small for what we needed. It was confusing for a while, but we were very grateful it was available,” said Cardinal, who moved with her husband from Omaha, Neb., to retire in Viera.
The fledgling Catholic flock, which incorporated in 2001, grew and even shared space at Faith Lutheran Church before raising nearly $10 million to construct St. John the Evangelist in 2007, Viera’s first Catholic church.
One problem: The new sanctuary at St. John, already crowded with 250 families attending every week, was too small for the bustling community of lushly landscaped, walled-off neighborhoods, cookie-cutter homes and sentrylike palm trees. In the span of a decade, the parish, which is the 12th Catholic community in Brevard, has grown to more than 2,300 families.
A number of congregations in Viera are working to keep up with the area’s growth, offering special ministries and praying to expand their territories.
Ministers say the focus should remain on making the message of faith accessible to a population that could become one of the county’s largest cities by 2015.
The story of faith in Viera — a name its founders say means “faith” in the Slavic tongue of their ancestors — parallels that of the relatively young, unincorporated town. The area now known as Viera began as a cattle ranch in the 1940s before the interstate system coursed its way along Florida’s eastern seaboard, connecting communities and bolstering business.
By the early 1990s, county government offices, the Moore Justice Center and four congregations were opened in a town still noted for its wandering cows, calming blue skies and tangerine sunsets.
“Certainly, we are a growth area. A decade later, we have a community with 11 places of worship, and there’s a variety of faiths represented,” said Susan Howard, a spokeswoman for Duda & Sons, which oversees Viera’s residential and commercial development through its real estate division.
“Obviously, these congregations all contribute greatly to the area, and they are gathering places for the community. We certainly are here to showcase a vibrant community, and having houses of worship is a part of that.”
Today, the faith community also is struggling to keep up with the challenges of fast-paced development. In 2009, Calvary Chapel Melbourne — the county’s largest megachurch, with 9,000 weekly attendees — moved from a school and opened a satellite campus.
At St. John, the congregation has started a three-year “Live In Christ” campaign to raise yet another $10 million to build a larger sanctuary across the street from Space Coast Stadium.
“It’s a growing area, and we want to try to keep up with that growth,” said Father Brad Beaupre, pastor of St. John the Evangelist. “ What we have today was built with a temporary worship space. If Viera’s population reaches 40,000 to 45,000, I would guess that we will need a church that could seat up to 1,500 people at a time.”