Cathedral celebrates centennial and looks to the future

CHARLESTON — In April 1907, the Catholic Diocese of Charleston officially opened the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Broad Street after rebuilding from a fire in 1861.

One hundred years later, parishioners gathered for a pot luck lunch on April 15 to celebrate the centennial of the central church of the diocese, to reflect on the beauty of their spiritual home, and to look toward their future.

A crowd estimated at 200 packed into the fellowship hall for the meal. Several men braved gusting, near gale-force winds to prepare barbecued pork roast under a tent on the green outside.

Father David Runnion, parochial vicar, helped to serve dinners. Inside the hall, tables were decked with balloons, CDs of the Cathedral  choirs played in the background, and visitors could view a historical display prepared by parishioner Sharon Walker. Four generations of Walker’s family have worshiped at St. John the Baptist  over the years.

Those attending could view posters charting the progress of the Cathedral Capital Campaign, known as “Forward With Faith.”

The parish is being asked to raise about $3.5 million worth of a massive $7 million renovation currently underway on the structure. The work includes cleaning and restoration of the stained glass windows, replacement of water-damaged brownstone on the exterior, and the eventual addition of a steeple. The Cathedral never received a steeple because of a lack of funds when it was rebuilt.

The campaign is still in need of $700,000 in pledged funds to reach its goal, according to parishioner John Caputo, chairman of the Cathedral Campaign Committee. Caputo said he hoped the potluck lunch gave parishioners a chance to celebrate the long history of their church and bolster their resolve to reach the fund-raising goals.

Caputo said work on the roof, sound system and heating and air systems has been completed. The brownstone, stained glass repairs and the eventual steeple are the next priorities.

“These are projects that take a long time to complete, and we need to have the funding in place. These aren’t things that can be done in just a few months,” he said.
“It’s great to be able to celebrate like this, not only for current members but to honor the members of the past,” said parishioner Dan Radovanic, one of the volunteer cooks. “It’s like we’re commemorating the past, present and future of the Cathedral, because now we’re looking at finishing the Cathedral by adding the steeple. I’m helping out because of my love for Charleston, the Cathedral and the Catholic faith.”

Dale Sears, another volunteer cook, said he was proud that parishioners decided to make the 100th anniversary luncheon “a humble celebration” by cooking on their own instead of hiring a caterer, in order to save the parish money.

Ruthie Mallard, who has been a member of St. John the Baptist for 15 years, said she was thankful to be able to celebrate the past and future.

“I just think we’re so fortunate to be able to worship in that sanctuary,” she said. “I read Scripture on Sundays, and I still get chills when I go up to the altar with all its beauty.”