Saint Mary also had to commission a tintinnabulum (a bell mounted on a pole), which signifies the churchs link with the pope, and the ombrellino (basically an umbrella that is part of the papal regalia).
Preparations for the solemn Mass also included renting tents and chairs and putting together a reception fit for an Archbishop all of which costs money.
We made no hard-core appeal, Father Baker said. But those who understood donated quite generously. It seems so miraculous to me. But it is indicative of this parish. We did not have to knock on doors and beg.
This island city is known for its celebrations: the 10-day debauchery Fantasy Fest, the Papas taking over during the Hemingway Days festival and Sushi the Drag Queen dropping from a giant red high heel on New Years Eve.
But the solemn Mass celebration will be one of a kind. Most Catholics never witness one in their lifetimes.
Father Baker expects about 2,500 people will attend the Mass, which is open to the public and will be broadcast on Jumbotrons, live streamed on websites including www.miamiarch.org and www.tripsmarter.com/keytv and broadcast on Radio Paz 830 AM.
The festivities begin at 6:45 p.m. with a procession from the parish school, Mary Immaculate Star of the Sea. It will meander through three outdoor areas set up on the church grounds for overflow seating. It ends inside the church. The procession includes the Knights of Columbus color guard, parish representatives, the Sisters of the Holy Spirit of Tanzania, priests and the insignia the bell and the umbrella.
Following the Mass, the celebration will continue with a dessert reception at the Marriott Beachside Resort. Transportation is being provided by the Key West Conch Train.
Pat Erickson, a Dominican Sister who volunteers at the Outreach Mission and works as a nurse practitioner at the Stock Island Detention Center, will do the first reading. She said she wont be nervous.
The church is very inviting, Erickson said. Its an open space that speaks to me a lot about the people.
About a half-hour after morning Mass on Thursday, unemployed Molly Mahoney pushed the wheelchair of boyfriend Brian Schaefer into the church. They have been hit by hard times. Were finding sanctity for a minute, she said. The Lord does look over me.