By JORDAN MCMORROUGH
CHARLESTON — Difficult topics discussed with humor and honesty describes the peninsular cluster pre-Lenten mission held Feb. 12-14. The gathering marked the cluster’s second major spiritual event together as a similar experience was offered last March.
Parishioners from the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, St. Mary’s, St. Patrick’s, Our Lady of Mercy and Sacred Heart met for three days in mid-February to hear Paulist Father John Collins from New York City combine laughter and insights into spiritual truths. The Empire State cleric has conducted over 200 missions in the past decade, in addition to more than 30 retreats for priests and religious, and according to participants at the Holy City events, the reasons for the Paulist priests’ popularity in this type of ministry are evident.
“Father Collins used humor throughout his presentation to great success,” said Msgr. Chet Moczydlowski, pastor of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Sister Nancy Schmidt, pastoral associate at the Cathedral, echoed that sentiment. “Father Collins’ outgoing style and stories demonstrated the goodness of God and all of us,” she said. “His humorous tales were energizing.”
Father Collins preached at Masses at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, St. Mary’s, and St. Patrick’s with Father Basil Congro, pastor. On the three nights of the mission, he spoke at St. Patrick’s, Sacred Heart, and the Cathedral, respectively. Topics included “What good is God?” on Feb. 12, “Why prayers don’t work?” on Feb. 13, and ironically, on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, the theme was “Ten kinds of people we don’t have to love.”
Sister Schmidt said that Father Collins addressed “very practical things and was not afraid to take on issues.”
In one of the more controversial areas, Msgr. Moczydlowski said the Paulist priest discussed why prayers are not answered, as well as the notion of faith versus spirituality, and how the church at times gets in the way.
In addition, Father Collins reminded attendees that they find God in everyday life and when they are forgiving and compassionate people, not in visions or weeping statues, said Sister Schmidt.
“He didn’t say anything I haven’t heard before, but it was a different approach and a fresh perspective,” she said.
Sister Deanna Bartolomei, also a pastoral associate at the Cathedral, added, “Father Collins was very spiritual and able to energize. I enjoyed being with him and praying with him. He is a very ‘alive’ preacher. You could hear a pin drop when he spoke. He captured people’s attention and held it. He preached the Gospel.”
About 150 people attended the mid-day conferences at St. Mary’s and another 150 attended the evening sessions at the other peninsula churches. Many of the participants also stayed for the receptions held afterwards.
“It served to open doors and break down parish turf. It was very well received,” said Msgr. Moczydlowski of the retreat. “Our survival depends on cluster collaboration. Each of the six churches on the peninsula has a unique ministry.”
In addition to the peninsular cluster mission, Father Collins also conducted the same retreat the week before at Blessed Sacrament in West Ashley.