By DEIRDRE C. MAYS
PAWLEYS ISLAND – In a packed church, members of Precious Blood of Christ experienced the beginning of a new era for Catholics in the Waccamaw Neck area June 6. The new church was dedicated by Bishop David B. Thompson, and a poignant farewell was given to Father Charles Snopek, pastor, as he retired from active ministry.
Pastor since 1990, Father Snopek responded tearfully to the standing ovation he received after Bishop Thompson acknowledged him in the greeting. “I just gave him his first order in his new church,” Bishop Thompson said with humor, “stop crying.”
The moving ceremony continued with the presentation of the church to the Bishop by John Glinka, chairman of the building committee. Bill Jaubrich, pledge chairman, presented the pledges and memorials; Pete Reibol, the parish construction manager, presented the facility plans and specifications; and Clem Thoennes, project finance manager, presented the keys.
The presentations were followed by the anointing of the altar, the walls and the incensation of the altar and church.
After Mass, the ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament was placed on the chapel and the sanctuary lamp was lit.
Bishop Thompson noted the significance of celebrating the dedication on the parish’s feast day, the feast of Corpus Christi, saying: “You built this church in the belief of the real presence of the body of Christ.”
The prelate said the faithful were on God’s side in having such a magnificent new church he described as having noble simplicity.
“You are really singing ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ by erecting and dedicating this monument to almighty God, so you can meet God here and God can meet you,” he said.
He congratulated the congregation and turned to Father Snopek to wish him celebration of many sacraments there even though he was retiring.
“You don’t retire from ministry, just from administration,” Bishop Thompson joked.
In thanking everyone for their contributions and hard work, Father Snopek was hard put to contain his emotions.
“The Almighty has done great things for us,” he said. He began tearing up again and turned to the Bishop saying with characteristic humor: “This is the last time I disobey you Bishop.”
After the emotional dedication ceremony concluded, people flooded into the former worship space, once a four-car garage in 1984.
The building stands as a reminder of a significant example of stewardship and a congregation rallying to raise the funds to move from a small space to a church on a grand scale.
Sister Karee Finnegan, a Sister of St. Francis of Our Lady of Lourdes, was one of the first of her order, along with Sister Lucilla Schuler, to assist in the establishment of the new parish in 1984. She returned to attend the dedication and was flocked by old friends.
“It’s absolutely wonderful to see how much it has grown,” she said of the parish. “It was really discouraging when we came, we used to go around asking people to come together to make the garage over. The families came together and made it feel like a church.”
Dolly Stone and her husband, Noris, moved to Pawleys Island in 1985 and found Precious Blood.
“We were all so close in our little church,” she recalled. “It was like a family.”
Susan Walker was an original parishioners who recalled working out of the convent house and helped convert the garage into a place of worship.
“It was very exciting,” she said. “Father John Bench would have Mass in the house in front of the fireplace. Sisters Karee and Lucilla went through the community looking for people to help. I got maps of the neighborhoods to identify Catholic families and invite them to come to church.”
Walker said she will miss the old days in their little church.
“We made that garage holy,” she said. “Now, we have a real responsibility ahead of us.”