COLUMBIA—Father Gary S. Linsky began a new era in his life on Aug. 1 when he officially started his assignment as pastor of St. Peter Church.
Just a few weeks before, he was on active duty as a chaplain and colonel in the United States Air Force, serving as command chaplain of Air Mobility Command based at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. He celebrated his retirement from the military with an official ceremony held at the church on Aug. 10.
It’s a new era for the historic parish because Father Linsky replaces longtime pastor Msgr. Leigh Lehocky, who retired in December after more than 30 years there.
A native of State College, Pa., Father Linsky was first commissioned through Pennsylvania State University’s Air Force ROTC program in 1981 and was on active duty for more than nine years as an officer in the Medical Service Corps. He attended St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Charleston in 1995.
He became a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves and also served at several parishes before returning to active duty in 1999. He completed seven deployments to Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar and Oman.
Father Linsky was asked by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone in late 2012 to consider returning to South Carolina to minister at St. Peter.
“I could have stayed in the military another six years, but I really felt I had achieved all I could and I felt like I had some gifts that could be useful at this very unique parish,” he said.
His military service exposed him to many different cultures around the world, and he feels this will be helpful at a parish with a diverse group of worshipers. They come from nearby colleges and universities, plus the area’s military bases and manufacturers. St. Peter School also has students from several different nations.
Father Linsky decided to have the retirement ceremony in Columbia so people could share the event with him and learn a little about his background.
“It gave them an opportunity to know where I’m coming from, especially from a patriotic standpoint,” Father Linsky said. “My time in the military allowed me to minister to a special group of young people. Currently less than one percent of Americans are wearing a military uniform, and few people out there really understand the sacrifice members of the military make.”
He said he hopes to reach out to current members of the military and veterans both in the parish and the general community.
Father Linsky is working with the groups at St. Peter to learn more about their needs before he embarks on any new projects or big changes. So far, he said, he’s only changed one Sunday Mass time and the baptism schedule.
“I’m very grateful to Msgr. Lehocky’s legacy, because he did so much to build the church here both physically and as a parish,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about building any buildings. I can focus on things like enhancing our liturgy, which is the source and summit of our faith.”
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