Father Vollkommer celebrates his silver jubilee

CHAPIN—More than 500 people turned out to help Father Andrew J. Vollkommer celebrate the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Chapin on May 29.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone concelebrated the Mass with Father Vollkommer, Benedictine Fathers Kieran Neilson and David Kessinger of North Carolina’s Belmont Abbey Monastery, and Father Timothy M. Lijewski from the Diocese of Charleston.

The bishop spoke about maintaining faith during hard times or periods of “spiritual darkness” like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta experienced.

“Twenty-five years ago, [Father Vollkommer] was on top of the roller coaster, feeling and experiencing all God had to offer,” he said. “You don’t stay on top of the mountain. There are low periods, questioning periods, but you go forward with the acknowledgement of God’s grace, even though you don’t always feel it.”

Father Vollkommer said the celebration meant a lot to him because he has dealt with difficult health problems in the past year.

“I’m so blessed that the Lord saw me through all that, and so blessed to be here this long and see this parish grow with the help of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

A native of Oceanside, N.Y., he became a Benedictine monk in 1979 and was ordained to the priesthood at Belmont Abbey Monastery in 1986.

In 1993, he felt a calling to life as a parish priest and was accepted by Bishop David B. Thompson to serve in the Diocese of Charleston.

He was assigned to Chapin in 1994, when Our Lady of the Lake was a mission of about 60 families.

He petitioned Bishop Thompson to make it an independent parish and was its first resident pastor. Membership has grown to about 800 households.

Father Vollkommer supervised the building and expansion of the family life center, and plans for a new church are in the works.

After Mass, people attended a reception in the parish life center.

The priest’s sisters, Carol Morris and Mary Cutler, traveled from Florida to help their brother celebrate.

“It’s just an unbelievable day and a wonderful thing for him,” Morris said. “The priesthood is a perfect calling for him, and this parish is just wonderful. The people are all so involved and supportive. There seems to be a genuine sense of community here that you don’t see in a lot of churches.”

Cutler said she knew from childhood that the priesthood would be a good choice for her brother.

“If there was ever anybody who had a true calling, it was him,” she said. “He was meant to do this, and it’s a delight to see him celebrate.”