Mount Pleasant — St. Benedict Church is celebrating its five-year milestone as a community.
The church held its first Mass on Sept. 5, 1999, at Thomas Lynch Hall Community Center in Dunes West. Father Paul Brenninkmeijer, administrator of the parish, remembers the celebration of the initial Mass in an atmosphere of joyful anticipation of what the future was to hold for its founding members.
Over the past five years, many changes have taken place to accommodate the growing congregation. The parish has adopted St. Benedict as its patron saint to reinforce one of his teachings that “the church is a community — a community of learners in the school of service.” It has 240 registered families, and has moved its Sunday liturgy location to the more spacious Cario School cafeteria in Park West.
Today, 42 different ministries are working to serve within the church and in the surrounding area at organizations like East Cooper Community Outreach, Habitat for Humanity, St. Vincent de Paul, Birthright and a visitation program for the elderly and homebound in conjunction with Meals on Wheels.
“We have been blessed by families and individuals who have given tirelessly to bring our parish to where it is today,” says Father Brenninkmeijer. “My hope is that we continue to create a spirited learning environment where all Christians feel welcome, honored and loved.”
Sunday Mass is held at 9:30 a.m. at the Cario School. Weekday Masses are offered at various places including the parish center on 15 Mile Landing Road in Awendaw, at parishioners’ homes and at the Franke Home on Rifle Range Road.
The parish has about 600 members. Of these, nearly 300 are between the ages of 1 and 20. A nursery and a separate children’s Liturgy of the Word are offered during Mass. The hospitality social after Sunday Mass has become a favorite hallmark of the community as members and guests gather in fellowship to greet and get to know one another. It is a valuable time for guests and new parishioners to ask questions and experience a true sense of the community.
At St Benedict, there is a strong belief that religion is caught more than taught. The young members who are an integral part of parish life learn by experiencing their faith from and alongside their parents and others in the community. By actively participating in the Family Intergenerational Religious Education program, families gather in small faith sharing groups for prayer, Scripture study, discussion, socialization, fun and mealtimes.
Building on its five-year foundation, the parish is looking to expand its presence with the recent acquisition of a 54-acre site, located near the entrance of Darrell Creek Trail, off of Highway 17 and across from the new Wando High School.
A long-term master plan is currently underway and is being designed by Island Architects of Chester, Va. The master plan includes a large church structure, a substantial multipurpose building, a K-8 Catholic school, church offices and meeting rooms, and several homes for the elderly in the community who require assisted-living facilities.
“My vision for our church is that we continue to grow in numbers and holiness,” explains Father Brenninkmeijer. “United as one and recognizing God’s many gifts to us, I pray that we continue to learn to make the very best of all that we have been given in stewardship.”
Commenting on the architectural plans, Father Brenninkmeijer suggests that the church building will not be something that is superimposed on the community or the site.
“It will be simple, spacious, and grow naturally out of our beautiful site in the light of our experienced needs and our God-given resources, and as an expression of faith. I see both the church community and its campus as an oasis of peace where all are welcome, and which will faithfully reflect God’s gifts to us – nothing more, nothing less,” he said.
To learn more about St. Benedict Catholic Church, visit www.stbenedictparish.org or contact the parish office at (843) 216-0039.