By NANCY SCHWERIN
For Father George F. Moynihan 25 years in the priesthood has gone by fast. He has been in an assignment since his ordination by Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler on Dec. 7, 1974, with the exception of a well-deserved six-week sabbatical in the summer of 1980.
Father Moynihan, pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea in North Myrtle Beach, attended parochial schools in Boston, Mass., where he was born, and in Charleston at Blessed Sacrament and later at Bishop England. While a student at the Charleston Catholic high school, Moynihan says he dated just as all the other young men in school, but in his senior year he made a decision he was going to give priesthood a try!
Early influences in the pastor’s life include his mother and priests throughout his life who stood as good examples of the church and a source of encouragement.
After graduating from Bishop England, young Moynihan entered the seminary at St. Mary’s in St. Mary, Ky. During the course of his studies, the idea of becoming a priest became a permanent resolution. He completed graduate work at St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore.
As a young priest, his assignments touched off at St. John in Charleston Heights, where he was an associate pastor.
“I wanted to show Christ’s caring concern for all people,” said Father Moynihan, who strives to be an image of God for his parishioners.
His assignments as an associate pastor continued at Blessed Sacrament in Charleston, St. Paul the Apostle in Spartanburg, and St. Thomas the Apostle in Charleston Heights. With his assignment in 1981 at St. Louis in Dillon and Infant Jesus in Marion, Father Moynihan took on the job of pastor, where he remained for eight years until 1990. At that time he was assigned to St. Cyprian in Georgetown, the McClellanville Catholic Community, and St. Leo the Great in Andrews. He watched over these communities for a relatively short time, before becoming pastor at his current parish.
Throughout the years and with increasing experience, Father Moynihan found himself with a new focus. While his ideals as a young priest held fast, he said he found himself “taking more time in caring for people around me, in seeing their needs first.”
At Our Lady Star of the Sea Father Moynihan spends a good portion of his time tending to the needs of others. With a high population of elderly parishioners, he often finds himself in hospitals anointing the sick or at Mass praying for those who have gone before us.
“This is a time when you touch people’s lives the most, when the healing power of the church is at work,” said Father Moynihan.
See MOYNIHAN, Page 13
He enjoys working in adult education and sharing their parish with “snowbirds,” an affectionate term for Northerners who come South for the winter. In Myrtle Beach, “They’ll stay from Christmas to Easter, four or five months,” said Father Moynihan. “And they get actively involved in the parish.”
With an influx of tourists and part-time residents, it’s no wonder Our Lady Star of the Sea boasts of the largest church in the diocese, seating 1,500 people, which Father Moynihan said is his biggest accomplishment.
Back in 1993 when Bishop David Thompson told him that a new church building was needed; he was off and running. After four years of raising money and watching the building progress, it was dedicated on April 26, 1997. A belltower was added which contains a columbarium, where urns are kept safe for visiting relatives, and a prayer garden was erected.
Among the changes that have taken place in the church over the years, Father Moynihan noted the increasing involvement of the laity and women gaining more active roles in ministry.
His advice for a seminarian: get experience in a parish prior to being ordained; for a newly ordained priest: learn from pastors; they’ve been in the field a long time.
“I can’t believe it’s been 25 years,” he said. “It gives you a sense of accomplishment.”
Accomplishment, in deed. Parish secretary for nearly nine years Linda Britzke had this to say of the devoted pastor: “Under his guidance and care we have built the largest church in South Carolina, but it still reflects the warmth and hospitality which Father George projects. Even though we are a large community, and he is the only priest assigned here, he makes everyone feel welcome. He is there for his parishioners whenever they need him. Father George is a very special person. I, personally, love him dearly as do many, many others.”