MOUNT PLEASANT—St. Benedict parish celebrated a momentous occasion with a Liturgy of Dedication on March 18.
The air was charged with happy anticipation as Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone stood outside the church doors with Msgr. Chester M. Moczydlowski, pastor, and more than a dozen other priests, and delivered the traditional three knocks for entry.
It was the start of a solemn and detailed service that brought to fruition 12 years of effort by a devoted membership.
“It’s been quite a journey,” said Norm Russell, one of the original parishioners from when they were known as the East Cooper Catholic Community.
A glance back
Bishop Emeritus David B. Thompson, who attended the dedication, established the parish in 1999 and Mass was held in a small meeting room in Dunes West. He placed them under the patronage of St. Benedict in 2001.
The Benedictine spirit came from Father Paul Brenninkmeijer, the first pastor, who asked the faithful to be “a community of learners, discovering how to be Christ for each other.”
Msgr. Moczydlowski said Father Brenninkmeijer could not attend the dedication in person, but was with the congregation in spirit.
As their numbers grew over the years, the ecumenical community opened its heart and doors to the active group of Catholics, providing space for Mass at Cario Middle School and All Saints Lutheran Church.
But parishioners strongly felt they needed a church of their own to reach their full potential.
In 2008, Msgr. Moczydlowski took the reins, launched the “Building Stewardship” campaign, and brought them to their own worship space.
The excitement of St. Benedict parishioners was evident in the weeks leading up to the dedication. Maggie Thompson, community ministry chair, said they received over 800 responses from people planning to attend the Mass.
A scheduled reception had to be canceled because of the enormous crowd, and on the day of the service, a shuttle bus made dozens of trips back and forth between an overflow parking lot and the new church.
“It just clearly shows how excited people are for this day,” Thompson said.
There were many happy exclamations of “finally, the big day!” as parishioners greeted each other with hugs and handshakes before finding a seat in their new home.
“This gives us an opportunity to welcome back the folks who missed the traditional church setting and environment,” Russell said.
Connie Mahan was one of those. She spent many years at Christ Our King because her daughter, who was 13 at the time, wanted a church setting. Her daughter is grown now, and Mahan said she is thrilled to be back at St. Benedict.
Attendees said they were looking forward to everything from the sacredness of a church setting to having their own meeting space and stability.
Peggy Russo, a convert, said she was not a fan of church in a cafeteria.
“I’m grateful for the pews,” she said with a grin.
Rites of Dedication
Once the liturgy began, an atmosphere of reverence enveloped the crowd, and tribute was paid to parishioners who were instrumental in the journey but unable to make the dedication.
Russell noted that the gavel used by Bishop Guglielmone to knock for entry belonged to the late Judge Frank Talbot, who passed away just this year. As the bishop said in his homily, “We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.”
After the procession, the building was officially handed over to the bishop, who then passed the giant wooden key to Msgr. Moczydlowski. This was greeted by long, enthusiastic applause from the congregation.
Bishop Guglielmone, Msgr. Moczydlowski and all the visiting priests concelebrated the Mass.
Thompson, who sat with her 6-year-old twins, said they grew up going to church in the cafeteria and don’t yet understand all the rituals.
As the service progressed, she quietly explained the significance of filling the baptismal font with holy water and sprinkling it around the church, incensing the church, depositing the relics of Sts. Elizabeth Ann Seton, John Neumann and Maria Goretti, anointing the altar, inaugurating the tabernacle and more.
Parishioners then held hands for the Lord’s Prayer, which Thompson said is one of their traditions, a symbol of community that has kept them together.
Bishop Thompson praised that spirit of community and told them to hold onto it.
“You have put God to work for you,” he said. “Please enjoy your church and enjoy being churched.”
Msgr. Moczydlowski wrapped up the dedication with a nod to God’s plan, which is not always visible to His people. The pastor said the delays that so frustrated everyone were obviously intentional, so that the first Mass of St. Benedict would occur during the season of Lent.
Called a spark plug and a motivator by his parishioners, the pastor said he looked forward to many years of service, and was met with a standing ovation.