Church of St. Mary on Yonge’s Island celebrates 130 years

YONGE’S ISLAND — Members of the Church of St. Mary celebrated the parish’s 130th anniversary with a procession, Mass and dinner May 1.

Yonge’s Island can boast that a Catholic community has been present in the area for 130 years. Early services were held in private homes for the Martin’s Point Mission, administered by Father D. J. Quigley. His work led to the dedication of the Church of St. Philomena on May 12, 1895.

According to Rev. Quigley’s notes, “In 1894 the church building was decided upon. Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Geraty and F. W. Towles donated an acre and a half a most beautiful site fronting on the Wadmalaw River and within easy distance of the R.R. depot.” Newspaper accounts of the time record over 200 people celebrating the dedication in much the same way as the present-day parishioners did. Visitors were treated “to a bounteous lunch spread under the shade of a grove of Leconte pears.”

The Church of St. Philomena was originally furnished with items from St. Patrick’s Church in New York. After the church was destroyed by a hurricane in 1911, salvaged materials from it were used to build what is now the Church of St. Mary, slightly farther from the water.

At the 130th anniversary celebration, parishioners placed flowers at the Grotto of Mary and Father Stan Smolenski explained why Mary is venerated by Catholics. After Mass, parishioners and guests gathered for a catered dinner, and children enjoyed games, pony rides, and pinatas. Several former members who had moved away returned for the occasion, making the event as much a reunion as an anniversary celebration.