Week of Blessings returns for 13th year

Savannah Vasquez
Members of the local clergy speak blessings over the many vessels that participate in the annual Blessing of Fleet. Pictured here, Capt. Mike Graef and crew aboard the Huntress get blessed.

Every year, Destin’s Week of Blessings begins on Ascension Day according to the liturgical calendar.

Throughout the week, clergy members and congregations pray, fast, visit businesses within the city and gather to encourage, bless and honor each industry. This year will be the 13th year for Destin’s Week of Blessings, although the faith-based tradition dates back 59 years with the original event, the Blessing of the Fleet.

“1958 was the first one,” Rev. Mike Hesse said of the blessing of the fleet. “In the earliest times they walked straight across from St. Andrews to the Kelly Docks, it’s always on the docks.”

Hesse explained that he first became involved with the Blessing of the Fleet in 1992, just after he moved to Destin from Pensacola, but it has always been one of his favorite events in the city.

“I love what we do and the fisherman take it seriously, which is why it morphed into the rest of the community,” he said.

In 2003, within a two-week timeframe, two different people approached Hesse to ask about expanding the blessing event to the wider community. Those two people were Capt. Mike Parker and then councilman Mel Ponder.

“I was asked by Father Mike to give the prayer at the Blessing of the Fleet and when I got through praying I saw other people there that weren’t fishermen,” said Parker. “I thought it would be neat to have a function that they could come to. … Something for business people, teachers, elected officials, sheriff’s officers, fire fighters and mili-tary members, where all the pastors could pray over them as well.”

“The fleet is the heart of the city, but I felt the whole city could be impacted by blessings in the same way,” added Mel Ponder.

Hesse said that to him, having two peo-ple who didn’t know each other approach him at the same time about the same idea was a sign that God was involved.

“It got me thinking, ‘Wow, the Lord has really blessed the fishing fleet here, we could do this for the merchants and for all those who make their living in Destin,’ ” he said.

Word of Destin’s Week of Blessings has spread and now cities in other parts of the nation and even other countries are looking to implement a similar model.

“This year there are two pastors from the Bahamas coming to visit because they want to institute a week of blessing like ours down in the Bahamas,” said Parker.

“It’s been expanded to other cities, even as far as New Zealand,” Ponder added. “It just goes to show what God can do in a community when the faith-based community comes together to lift the city up.”

Each year, the Week of Blessings begins on Ascension Day according to the liturgical calendar and this year it falls on May 1st.

Sunday, May 1: Blessing Week begins with pastors of each church in Destin blessing the families in their congregations.

Monday, May 2: Pastors encourage their congregations and any who would like to join in a city-wide day of prayer and fasting.

Tuesday, May 3: Teams of Destin clergy visit pre-determined places throughout the city to thank those who serve and offer blessings to any who will accept them.

Wednesday, May 4: The Blessing of the Marketplace event is held at Destin United Methodist Church at 11:30 a.m. with lunch provided and keynote speaker Marwan Rifka of One-Hope ministries. At the event, Destin clergy members will pray over each industry represented in Destin.

Thursday, May 5: 59th Annual Blessing of the Fleet will begin at 4 p.m. at the Destin Fishing Fleet Marina behind Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer. The event will include a service at 4 p.m., boat blessing at 5 p.m. and a fish fry at 5:30 p.m.

Friday: May 6: Blessing of the Youth will be held at Shoreline Village behind Bric-a-Brac from 5-7 p.m. with free food, games and worship led by bands The Surrendered and Holinite for youth in middle school and high school. For more information check @destinyouth on Instagram.

For more information on the Week of Blessings, visit

Week of Blessings Schedule