The history of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church begins with the arrival of Mr. Anthony Tress from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. He came to Kissimmee in the fall of 1895 on account of poor health and before the end of the year, a Mass was celebrated at the Tropical Hotel by a Jesuit Father from Tampa. Following the arrival of his wife, Annie and two children in 1898, a defunct bank building was used 3 times a year for Mass services. There was only one other Catholic family in town.
Rev. Hugo Paff, brother of Mrs. Tress, on a visit in 1901, saw the need for vestments and other items necessary for the saying of Mass and presented her with them. Pews, kneelers and an altar were built by her father-in-law and the tabernacle was built by her husband. Over the next few years, more Catholic families arrived in Kissimmee and the congregation grew and by 1910, a temporary altar would be set up in the theater on Saturday nights after the picture show was over.
In the summer of 1911, lots were purchased on Sproule Avenue and fundraising began for the construction of the first Catholic Church building in Kissimmee. On May 5, 1912, the cornerstone was laid for the little brick Gothic-style church which would seat 175 people. The first Mass was said on June 30, 1912 in the newly built $7,000 church but it still lacked pews and electricity. The following year electric lights were installed; in 1915, pews were added and four statues were acquired in 1918. The first burial service from the church was in 1914 and the first marriage took place in 1915.
The arrival of Disney World also saw the increase in the number of Catholic visitors so there was a need for a larger church. The little church was sold to the First United Methodist Church in 1972 and the new Holy Redeemer Church was completed in November 1973. The First United Methodist Church still owns the Old Catholic church building but only uses it occasionally.
Photo Courtesy: Florida Memory Image Collection