Pee Dee pastors help parishioners honor the pope


NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — Catholics in the Grand Strand area had opportunities to grieve and rejoice together for their late spiritual leader Pope John Paul II.

At St. Andrew Church, nearly 400 people attended a liturgy that was celebrated in honor of the pope on the day of his funeral, April 8. Father Chet Moczydlowski, pastor, designed special prayer cards in remembrance of the Holy Father and as a prayer to inspire the cardinals as they prepare to make their decision for the next pope.

In North Myrtle Beach, Father Gregory Wilson of Our Lady Star of the Sea was ready for Tuesday night’s Mass, the first of three special events planned in his parish to remember Pope John Paul II before the funeral April 8.

The priest has been assigned to the church since January, and he talked to The Miscellany about what the pontiff meant to him.

“Of course we are all saddened by his death,” he said. “He certainly is an incredible figure for everybody, but especially for us as Catholics. He really had a way of teaching the faith.”

At Our Lady Star of the Sea, each of the Masses for the pope was preceded by the rosary, which was the pope’s favorite prayer.

The pope had a great deal of influence on Father Wilson’s decision to go into the priesthood.

“That was shortly after I became Catholic,” the 32-year-old St. Matthews native explained. “I am a convert to the faith. John Paul II really had an influence on that as well.”

When asked whether a new pope will bring about significant changes in the church, Father Wilson said, “It’s all in the Holy Spirit’s hands. I don’t really think so because the pope never taught anything that was not part of the faith.”

Father Wilson said the next pope will be guided in his leadership.

“I have total confidence in the Holy Spirit, because it is the Holy Spirit who guides the church and who picks the next successor,” he said. “We are the instruments of that.”

Father ‘Rick LaBrecque, pastor of Church of St. James in Conway, followed media coverage of the pope’s death and got up at 3:30 a.m. to watch the funeral.

“I thought the TV media did an unusually objective, respectful and accurate presentation, and I thought the people they had on from the church were very spiritual. I was very impressed,” he said.

Drake Aberu, 16, a student at Green Sea Floyds High School, said that he had watched part of the pope’s funeral early in the morning.

“This pope’s been here all my life,” he said. “He was a good pope. He’s been all over the world for the church.”

Published April 14, 2005, The Catholic Miscellany