Historic St. Peter Church rededicated in Beaufort
BEAUFORT—A building that has served as a spiritual home for more than 160 years came to life again on Feb. 22 with the blessing of the newly restored historic St. Peter Church on Carteret Street in downtown Beaufort.
A capacity crowd of more than 100 packed the church, while another 400 watched a video simulcast of the event at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass and blessed the new church. He purified the walls with water, blessed the altar, incensed the altar and the church, and inaugurated the tabernacle by placing the Blessed Sacrament inside it.
Priests who currently serve or have served at the parish concelebrated, including Father Paul D. MacNeil, pastor, Msgrs. Ronald R. Cellini and Martin T. Laughlin, and Fathers Jeffrey Kendall, Casmir Maduakor, Robert Galinac, Michael Oenbrink and Cesar Torres.
Bishop Guglielmone noted the significance of blessing the new church on the feast day of the Chair of St. Peter.
“This renovation is one more attempt by the local church to make Jesus Christ more present to the community,” he said. “You didn’t do it just because it’s a beautiful place, but because you now can let this downtown area see the presence of Christ and let that presence take hold. Who knows what needs will be fulfilled here?”
He pointed out the parish’s long history and reflected on “the thousands who have come here to worship and get strength in the presence of God.”
The renovations were designed by Montgomery Architecture and Planning and the general contractor was Beeckman Webb Construction, both of Beaufort. They relied on old photos and historical records to restore the church as close to the original as possible.
The interior includes gleaming white walls, a new ceiling and wooden floors. Stained glass windows dating from the 1920s were replaced by large glass windows similar to those on the original building. The altar is backed by a beautiful orange, gold and red trefoil window originally made in Atlanta in the late 19th century.
Beaufort Catholics had nowhere to attend Mass until the church was built in 1846 on property bought by Irish immigrant Michael O’Connor, who deeded it to the Diocese of Charleston and, according to church records, paid for the building. The original structure survived the Civil War and several major hurricanes.
Members relocated to Lady’s Island in 1987, and that church was dedicated in 2006. The old building remained a meaningful place for perpetual adoration until it fell into such disrepair that it could no longer be used.
Pat Green, a member since 1964, served on the preservation committee and helped plan the blessing ceremony. Like many longtime members, Green recalls crowded Sunday Masses in the old church, where she rejoiced in the baptisms and confirmations of family members.
“It’s a joy and a relief to see the new church, and for many of us the experience has been a full circle,” she said. “It’s kind of like we’ve come home.”
Mae Mendoza married her husband Esteban Jr. in the historic church in 1966. She said the building is “like an old family member” and that the gathering of parishioners felt like a family reunion.
William Russell joined St. Peter in 1950 after coming to Beaufort while serving in the U.S. Navy. Two of his children were baptized in the old church.
“It’s tremendous to see the renovation, it’s exquisite,” Russell said. “I don’t know how they could have done it any better.”
Mass will be celebrated at noon Tuesdays and 9 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month. In the future, small weddings, funerals and other events will be held there and parishioners will offer tours of the historic building and cemetery.