By DEIRDRE C. MAYS
SUMMERVILLE — It has been a century of faith.
St. John the Beloved Parish has been celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, marking the birth, growth and spiritual prosperity of its community.
During the celebration Mass held Sept. 13, Bishop David B. Thompson referred to that Sunday’s gospel of the prodigal son as one that is about God’s gentle mercy. “… And where there is mercy there is also hope,” he said.
That hope has been exemplified by St. John’s parishioners and pastors.
Since the building of the first mission church, St. John has thriven, it’s programs have flourished, a school has been built and another parish, St. Theresa the Little Flower, has grown from it. The parish has historically signified cooperation and contribution. The original structure was erected in 1898 by Father Daniel Berberick, assistant at St. Joseph Church in Charleston, with the help of soldiers of the Spanish-American War. The diocese had acquired the land in April 1895 from the South Carolina and Georgia railroad.
Bishop Henry P. Northrop set the cornerstone on May 15, 1898, and dedicated the church as St. John the Beloved on April 16, 1899. The dedication plaques from the original and present church have been placed in the chapel.
St. John remained a mission until 1913 when Father John J. Hughes became its first pastor. A new church was constructed under Father Roy Aiken and dedicated by Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler on April 13, 1969. A parish hall, named after former pastor Msgr. Richard C. Madden, was added in 1976.
Msgr. Christopher Lathem has been pastor since 1985. In that time the community has grown substantially with new ministries. Summerville Catholic School was constructed in 1987 and a junior high extension was added in 1992. The church offers adult education, RCIA. In 1997 the church celebrated musically with the installation of a new pipe organ.
To continue to tie in history and future, the William Sullivan family donated two panels from a stained glass window out of the original church. Msgr. Lathem hopes to have them installed in the next year.
“We stand in a privileged moment,” Msgr. Lathem said. “We have families who have been in this Catholic community for the last 100 years, and it is our job to make sure we acknowledge the contributions from past generations.”
He said that St. John has been on the receiving end of assistance, service and the dedication of priests from other parishes.
“Now we have the resources and energy to contribute to our community and the universal church,” Msgr. Lathem said.
The proud pastor describes his parish as diverse saying they have a cross section of people who are warm and welcoming.
Evelyn Kelly, an eight-year member, whose active involvement in church activites is obviously a labor of love, agreed.
“This is a friendly parish,” she said. “We have activities for youth to seniors, we have dedicated deacons, the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, and we have wonderful people in general.”
Msgr. Lathem took the time to thank people during the celebratory Mass. Among those people, he included the choir, its director, his deacons — Thomas Elliott, Richard Delmonte and Joseph Carmody, Sister Carol Gnau, SSND, and Sister Nancy Purdue, OLM, and Father Duane Riplog, for his continued service.
The celebrations continued after the Mass with a reception. A parish picnic was held Sunday, Sept. 20. Future activities marking this milestone year include a stewardship fair, Oct. 3-4; a centennial dinner dance, Oct. 24; a facelift fund drive, sometime in October; an Advent mission featuring Father Richard Fragomini, a nationally-known speaker from Chicago; and the celebration of the feast of St. John the Beloved on Dec. 27.