In the early fall of 2012, several men from Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church (OLSS) gathered at the Ponte Vedra Beach home of Bob Hart to discuss the general idea of a service project, a meeting inspired by a challenge from Parish Vicar, Father Frank Iacona. These “co-founders," listed to the right, knew very little about parish partnerships or organizing foreign mission programs.
Internet searches and email solicitations for information eventually led the group to Catholic Relief Services. Catholic Relief Services forwarded the inquiries to the Jesuit Refugee Service in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Father Mario Serrano, SJ, the Executive Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, was at that time also the Director of Centro Bono, a Jesuit social action center that focused, among other things, on the problems of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic.
In January 2013, four months after the first meeting of the group, Don Barnhorst and Bob Hart flew to Santo Domingo to meet with Father Mario, where they met the two parishes that would eventually enter into a partnership with OLSS.
Over the course of the next several months, five different “fact-finding” teams flew from Jacksonville, Florida, to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Tentative relationships were established with two parishes: Domingo Savio, a Jesuit parish located in Las Guandules, one of the most challenging urban ghettos in the capital city of Santo Domingo; and San Antonio de Padua, which serves the residents of a small town located east of the capital as well as residents of a number of bateyes (migrant-worker camps) occupied by primarily Haitian families.