A sense of gratitude marks 25 years for Msgr. Harris

COLUMBIA—Msgr. Richard D. Harris stepped up to the ambo at St. Joseph Church on the afternoon of the feast of the Epiphany and looked out over packed pews. People of all ages had traveled from around South Carolina to celebrate his 25th jubilee with him. 

In the homily he offered at that day’s Solemn Vespers service, and in an interview afterward, his reaction to his milestone jubilee can be summed up in one word: gratitude. 

“It is somewhat hard to believe that 25 years have passed so quickly,” Msgr. Harris said. “I think the best way to describe how it feels is a deep sense of gratitude to God for calling me and giving me the gift of the priesthood.” 

He said he gives thanks for the many people he has encountered during his ministry in 14 different parishes, for his fellow clergy and for a family that has supported him in many ways, including years of adjusting their celebrations and events so he could take part despite his busy schedule. 

“I am even grateful for some of the challenges I have faced along the way, which have helped me grow spiritually and in my abilities as a leader and a shepherd,” Msgr. Harris said. 

He is a native of Aiken and the son of the late Leroy Harris and Marian Harris. Msgr. Harris has one sister, Rhonda Mitchell, three nieces and one nephew, plus one great-niece and six great-nephews. 

He graduated from the University of South Carolina and readily describes himself as a “diehard Gamecock fan” who enjoys attending games when he can. 

He attended Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass., and was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 11, 1993, by the late Bishop David B. Thompson. 

Parish assignments have taken him to all corners of the diocese, from the coast to Columbia, from small towns in the Upstate to small cities in the western part of the state. 

All photos provided: Msgr. Harris shares a smile in this pre-seminary moment with his sister, Rhonda Mitchell, and his father, Leroy Harris.

He served as administrator pro tem at St. Anthony Church in Walterboro and St. James Church in Ritter, parochial vicar pro tem at St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken, pastor at St. Augustine Church in Union, administrator of St. Boniface Church in Joanna and Holy Spirit Mission in Laurens, pastor at St. Patrick Church in Charleston, administrator at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Charleston, pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Greenwood and administrator at Good Shepherd Church in McCormick and Sacred heart Church in Abbeville. Since 2006, he has been pastor at St. Joseph Church in Columbia. 

Building and progress have been a hallmark of his assignments. Msgr. Harris was at the helm in Greenwood during the building process for a new church at Our Lady of Lourdes, which was dedicated in 2004. During his recent stint at St. Joseph, he guided a massive renovation of the church in 2009 and the building of a new parish ministry building dedicated in 2016. 

He has also taken on many administrative roles, including the building and renovations advisory committee, the college of consultors, the presbyteral council and the priest personnel board. Msgr. Harris has served as vicar for vocations, and has been a member of the curia, the pastoral council, and the finance and investment councils. 

In 2009, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone appointed him vicar general for the diocese. 

He received papal honors for his service in 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI named him a prelate of honor. At that time, he earned the title “Reverend Monsignor.” 

Despite all his accomplishments, Msgr. Harris said he finds the most happiness in simply being able to offer the sacraments of the Church to those who seek them. He also loves to see how the people he serves remain dedicated to their faith. 

“I am humbled and proud at being able to offer the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, of being able to baptize and, on several occasions, years later to witness the marriage of those I baptized,” he said. “I am proud of those young and old alike who love the Catholic faith and continue to practice it when so many have fallen away from the Church.” 

Top photo: Visiting priests and clergy flank Msgr. Richard Harris on Jan. 6 at St. Joseph Church in Columbia after the Solemn Vespers service marking his 25 years as a priest. From left to right are: Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary in Greenville; Father Matthew Gray, pastoral associate at St. Joseph; Rev. Dr. James F. Lyon IV, rector of Good Shepherd Anglo-Catholic Parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina; Retired Bishop David Donges of the S.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; Father Alexander “Sandy” McDonald, pastor of St. John Neumann Church in Columbia; Msgr. Harris; Father Jeffrey Kirby, pastor of Our Lady of Grace in Indian Land; Father Andrew Fryml, parochial vicar of the Basilica of St. Peter in Columbia; Father Gary Linsky, pastor of the Basilica of St. Peter; Father Rhett Williams, parochial vicar at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville; and Father Richard Wilson, parish administrator of St. Mary of the Ransom Church in Georgetown.

Betty Ryberg is pictured with the new priest after his first Mass at St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken on Dec. 12, 1993. She and her husband, Greg, are longtime friends of Msgr. Harris.