Overyjoyed and overwhelmed

Our Lady Star of the Sea dedicates new church building


NORTH MYRTLE BEACH – On Aprilt 26, parishioners of Our Lady of the Sea Church were told they has put God in his place.

In congratulating them during the Rite for Dedication in their new church, Bishop David B. Thompson told the congregation: “You are a very powerful people. By your faith, sacrifices, good work and generosity, this very day you are putting God in his place, where he ought to be.”

That place of God was dedicated in an inspiring Mass and rite by the bishop, the church’s pastor, Father George F. Moynihan, and over a dozen priests and deacons from around the diocese who were joined by another dozen altar servers.

A small army of the Knights of Columbus took part in the opening procession. The church was handed over to Bishop Thompson by representatives of the groups involved in building including the building committee, architects, and contributors – in the form of a dedication book listing the people and events intrumental in the facility, and the keys. The bishop then blessed the baptismal font and water, followed by the walls of the church and the people.

Seated shoulder to shoulder, approximately 1,400 parishioners and visitors filled the pews while some stood against the walls. Television cameras were placed strategically around the church as the Mass was celebrated. The ceremony incorporated the blessing, anointing and incensing of the altar and the walls in a reminder of Catholic Confirmation. Bishop Thompson venerated the altar with a kiss and, after Communion, processed with the Blessed Sacrament to the tabernacle.

The bishop explained to those gathered that the rite of blessing a church could only be done at a holy Mass because “churches house the altar of the saving sacrifice.” He went on to remind the faithful that churches, small and large, ornate and simple, are built because of God’s will.

“Do this in remembrance of him,” he said. “…. Steel and masonry, glass and ornamentation; they do not save but they invite us to be saved.”

At the end of the dedication, applause echoed up to the rafters. Another round was offered for the performance of the expansive choir and accompanying orchestra.

Father Moynihan spoke after receiving a standing ovation. He thanked the building and finance committees for their dedicated work and mentioned parish administrative assistant Linda Britzke and Marion L. Martini, memorial chairman and building committee member. He said both women “made sure everything got done.”

“I am overjoyed and overwhelmed,” Father Moynihan said after Mass. “We have worked hard for over four years. I am elated. This has been an arduous process. It was something that had to be done. We have definitely needed this church.”

Construction started on the 55-foot, Romanesque-style church last year. A statue of the Blessed Mother with outstretched arms provides a visual welcome to people and again, as they enter the main doors is a gold relief of Our Lady Queen of the Angels. The narthex houses St. George’s Chapel. The nave of the church has twelve stained glass windows depicting the life of Mary. The balcony for both choir and congregation is topped by one of the rose windows made for the church by Rich Buswell of Lynchburg Stained Glass. The altar is graced by a large Crucifix.

The total cost of the church is estimated at $4.8 million and the fund-raising continues. Father Moynihan said that his parishioners have organized everything from golf tournaments to yard sales to raise the money.

Our Lady Star of the Sea is one of the largest congregations in the Diocese of Charleston with a year-round registration of 1,300 families as well as visiting tourists in the summer and winter. Moynihan, who has been pastor since 1990, has seen the church grow from 500 registered parishioners standing “four deep” in the former church building and outside of it on S.C. Highway 17. He said that people will be able to hear the liturgy better and he will be able to see everyone.

“It’s something I’m extremely proud of now,” he added. “It was a vision. I learned a lot about this process. All I’ve done is remodeled rectories and churches so the building committee directed me more than I directed them. The process taught me how generous and kind they are. They did all of these things themselves. They are the ones that have come across… My parishioners have shown that they could do it.”

Now that the church is complete, along with additional fundraising, Father Moynihan and his parishioners will concentrate on a second stage that includes a lighted arched walkway leading to a 77-foot belltower with a columbarium (where ashes of the deceased are placed), a prayer garden and a grotto to the Blessed Mother.