St. Thomas More was established as a mission church of Incarnation Parish in Sarasota on September 16, 1979. The first Mass for the mission was celebrated at Gulf Gate Elementary School on October 6, 1979, by Father Eugene Ryan, the appointed Administrator. The new mission quickly registered two hundred families and continued to meet for weekend Masses and other social functions in the Gulf Gate Elementary School cafeteria over a period of five years until the permanent church was built.
St. Thomas More was officially designated a parish in January 1981, with Father Eugene Ryan named the first pastor. Weekday Masses were held at Toale Brothers Funeral Home.
Groundbreaking for the new church was held on June 26, 1983 based on plans for the church and chapel that were drawn up by award-winning architect Carl Abbott. Father Ryan celebrated the first Mass at sunrise on Easter Sunday 1984, while people stood in the roofless church on an unfinished dirt floor. The church was completed and dedicated on October 6, 1984 by Bishop John J. Nevins. Later in January 1985 work on the chapel began, and it was dedicated by Bishop Nevins on October 6, 1985.
Construction on the Chelsea Center started in January 1997, and it was dedicated on March 29, 1998 by Bishop Nevins. On February 22, 2001, Father Donald Henry became pastor of St. Thomas More. It was at this time that the parish experienced a period of exciting growth – a trend that continues to this day.
In 2002, the parish administrative offices moved to the Chelsea Center, allowing the church to enlarge the sanctuary by two hundred seats. We “Caught the Spirit” and in 2006 the Spirit Center was dedicated. It was the first building in the diocese to be completely paid for before it was ever in use!
In 2008, parish leadership embarked on the “Our Spirit Soars” capital campaign, raising funds to renovate and expand the main sanctuary and chapel. With the completion of our capital campaign, “Our Spirit Soars” in 2010, and its subsequent “Our Spirit Soars – to the Finish ” campaign, the parish once again paid for the new church before setting foot in it! St. Thomas More continues to be a growing, vibrant parish with people who are alive in the Spirit!