St. Andrew Church accommodates thousands for Easter


MYRTLE BEACH — “This is a monumental undertaking,” said Sister Susan Kresse while waiting in line. She was one of many volunteers checking in for practice on March 26 at the Palace Theater — not for a stage show but for a liturgical ministry on Easter.

St. Andrew Church is located in downtown Myrtle Beach, and visitors far outnumber parishioners at Easter. The parish has taken its Easter Masses off site since the late 1970s to accommodate the crowds. Up until 2004, Easter Masses were held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, where two Masses served up to 7,000 people each. The convention center was not available in 2004 due to a scheduling conflict, so the parish rented the Palace Theater instead. Everybody preferred the theater.

The church has an Easter team, which includes Msgr. Chet Moczydlowski, pastor; Linda Favata, business manager; Carlette Reynolds, administrative assistant; Sister Rosemary Riggie, pastoral associate; Gary Malec, property manager; Francesca Schaeffer, choral director; Teresa Quintero, organist; Richard and Gretchen Abney; John and Caroline Paulhus; Art and Pat Roehrl, and Bob and Wynn Zuercher. Team members have expertise in project management, liturgy, hospitality, and show business.

Planning for this year’s Easter Masses began a year ago when Reynolds negotiated a contract with the Palace Theater. She set up insurance coverage for the event about a month prior to the event. Several weeks ago, she contracted six off-duty police officers from the Myrtle Beach Police Department for security and traffic control and an EMT from the Myrtle Beach Fire Department for fire and safety concerns.

Four Easter Masses, at 90-minute intervals, would take place between the theater’s Saturday night performance of Spirit of the Dance and Sunday night performance of The Rat Pack.

The logistics of serving thousands of people has been fine-tuned over the years. Each Mass required 37 ushers, two lectors, and 34 extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. Many people served at multiple Masses, and a few served in more than one capacity. Service had to be both gracious and efficient.

The team used a detailed checklist to schedule transport of furnishings and liturgical items between the church and the theater. The altar from the church’s side chapel and an electronic piano were among furnishings that could be moved ahead of time. Items such as the sacred vessels and candles were needed for the Easter Vigil Mass and had to be moved at the last minute.

Even with the best of planning, things can sometimes go awry. The backup plan had to be instituted when the theater closed earlier than anticipated on Holy Saturday. The team moved the last-minute items to the church vestibule to facilitate loading on Easter morning. It was a short night. Malec loaded everything into a truck at 5:30 a.m. Easter morning and met team members and volunteers at the theater’s loading dock at 6 a.m. Everybody went right to work, and the doors were opened to worshippers right on schedule.

As soon as the last Mass ended around 1 p.m., the team and volunteers started packing and loading. Within half an hour, everything was on its way back to the church.

Reynolds summed up the entire experience by saying, “You feel very rewarded seeing 2,600 Catholics in the space.” Both parishioners and visitors alike share their appreciation with parish staff.

Published March 31, 2005, The Catholic Miscellany