By JORDAN MCMORROUGH
FOLLY BEACH — It was a time to rejoice and be glad as parishioners from Our Lady of Good Counsel turned out for an evening anniversary Mass on Nov. 11 to reflect on those who have nurtured the faith on Folly Beach for the past 50 years. Bishop Robert J. Baker was celebrant at the event, and Msgr. Robert J. Kelly, pastor, served as co-celebrant.
In his homily, Bishop Baker congratulated all who are part of Our Lady of Good Counsel, and he joined them in thanking the Lord for the blessings that have come in so many ways.
“In this parish you have met the person of Jesus Christ. You have experienced the Lord’s kindness, compassion, forgiveness and healing in the sacraments of the church, the word of God, and the gestures of concern and care you have shown for one another as the family of Christ,” said the bishop.
In listing some of the priests who have served the parish over the past five decades, Bishop Baker said, “I know how much the Lord has blessed you with good priests and people through the years. And I know how often each of you helped the love of Christ to be made recognizable here in Folly Beach.”
The bishop then alluded to the many ways parishioners have given of their time, talent and treasure through service in various committees and ministries. “Your parish and diocese is calling you to be good stewards of the kingdom — to help Msgr. Kelly and myself reach out and share the Gospel — to make Christ recognizable through the sharing of your time, your talent and your treasure here at Our Lady of Good Counsel and throughout the diocese.”
In closing comments at the liturgy, Msgr. Kelly spoke of the pride and happiness he was feeling on the occasion. “The people comprising Our Lady of Good Counsel are very unique,” he said. “We continue to be evidence of the growth at the edge of America.”
Msgr. Kelly said that Bishop Baker’s attendance at the anniversary Mass was “frosting on the cake, and it makes us mindful that this is a sacred dwelling where we share the wonder of the eucharistic experience.”
Following the Mass, a reception was held in the Our Lady of Good Counsel Church Hall.
And while the church was celebrating its 50th anniversary, the journey of faith for parishioners at the edge of America actually goes back more than six decades, according to a parish history.
As early as 1937, Mass was celebrated on Folly Beach. In the summer of 1937 and 1938, Father J. Edmund Burke of St. Patrick Church celebrated the liturgy in the ballroom of the Elk’s Club, a practice continued by Father William G. Doyle of St. Mary Church in the summers of 1939 and 1940.
In August of 1940, the Elk’s Club was destroyed by a hurricane. However, the stage of the Folly Pavilion was the site for Mass the following two years. In 1943, the community center which stood across from the location of the present church was used for Mass by Father Alfred J. Laube and Father J. William Goldsmith of St. Joseph Church.
n 1944, Father John J. McCarthy was made pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church, which included Folly Beach. Father McCarthy’s assistant offered Mass at the Coast Guard Radar Station, and efforts were soon begun to construct a building in Folly Beach. In 1947 a lot was purchased from the Charleston Oil Company for $1,000, and the following year a second lot was purchased for $2,000. Construction began in 1949, and the first Mass was celebrated in the present Our Lady of Good Counsel Church on Christmas Day 1950.
Assistant priests from Blessed Sacrament served Folly Beach from 1945 to 1958 before Our Lady of Good Counsel became a mission of Nativity Parish on James Island in 1959. Then, from 1967 to 1978, it was a mission of Holy Spirit Church on Johns Island.
In 1978, then Father Robert Kelly became pastor of Nativity, and Our Lady of Good Counsel again became a mission of the James Island parish.
Ten years later, in 1988, Father Edward F. Mullen was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel by Bishop Ernest F. Unterkoefler. He established the first on-site rectory in Folly Beach and remained there until his retirement in 1992. During his pastorate, in 1989, Hurricane Hugo inflicted significant damage to the church, necessitating repairs to the roof and window coverings. Trees at both the church and rectory were destroyed.
Following the retirement of Father Mullen, Our Lady of Good Counsel was returned as a mission to Nativity Parish, and in 1993 Father Ronald R. Cellini was appointed administrator in addition to duties at Bishop England High School. During his tenure, a parish hall was constructed, and additional property and a new rectory were also purchased.
In 1996, Father Cellini was assigned as pastor of St. Peter Church in Beaufort by Bishop David B. Thompson, and Msgr. Kelly was appointed pastor. Under his leadership, Our Lady of Good Counsel began its own parish school of religion for pre-school, kindergarten, and first- and second-graders, and the church celebrated its initial first Communion class in 1999. This past spring, the first group of youths at the parish to receive the sacrament of confirmation did so in a ceremony administered by Bishop Baker.