BARNWELL—A silver and brass chalice that spent decades hidden in a wall at St. Andrew Church has been restored to its original beauty.The chalice will be used by Father James N. Dubrouillet, pastor, during a Mass Nov. 28 to commemorate the feast of their patron saint. “Many of the members have heard about the chalice but have never seen it,” Father Dubrouillet said.
It was discovered in the early 1950s when workers were renovating and expanding the church on Madison Street.
There were no documents, but local historians believe church members hid it from Gen. William T. Sherman’s troops as they swept through Barnwell in 1865 on the march from Georgia to Columbia.
The chalice has a sterling silver cup framed by intricately formed flowers. The ornate brass base is decorated with scrollwork and crosses. It is engraved with the words “St. Andrews, Barnwell, SC.”
After it was discovered, the chalice was stored in the sacristy and occasionally used for Mass on holy days and at special parish celebrations.
Father Dubrouillet learned about the cup when he was assigned to the church in June. He said it was not very attractive after all the years spent in the wall, which had tarnished the silver and dulled the brass base.
Then in July, the priest received an anonymous donation from a parishioner and decided to contact Adrian Hamers, a silversmith in Larchmont, N.Y., about possible restoration.
After the silversmith inspected the chalice, he called the church to let them know what a historic item it was.
“I had asked him to clean it and restore it, and tell us what would be the right way to care for it,” Father Dubrouillet said. “He called and offered us a discount on the work because he really wanted this piece to be refinished and restored. Hamers said seeing it reminded him of watching his grandfather make his chalices by hand. He was very excited about the piece.”
Although an exact date can’t be determined, Hamers said it is made in a style consistent with the mid-19th century.
Father Dubrouillet took the newly restored goblet to the priest’s retreat in Hendersonville, N.C., in late October, and explained its interesting history.
He learned then that the chalice might be the third oldest still in use in the diocese. The other two pieces belonged to Bishop John England, but more research needs to be conducted for confirmation.
The cup is yet another piece in St. Andrew’s long and interesting history. According to published church documents, their wooden building dates from 1831, which makes it the oldest religious structure in Barnwell and possibly the oldest original Catholic church in the state.
Many of the church’s early members were Irish immigrants. Descendants of these founding families include the Mahers and Bellingers.
Father John O’Connell, the first full-time priest, was assigned to the church in 1847. The parish thrived through the 19th century, and the building was spared by Sherman’s troops. Membership declined and the original structure fell into disrepair after the war, when many Catholics left or worshipped elsewhere.
Redemptorist priests started mission work at St. Andrew in 1930, and the church was designated a memorial shrine in 1944.
The little parish started to grow again in the 1950s, as more Catholics moved to the area to work at the Savannah River Plant. The church was renovated and a social hall was added. New stained glass windows, originally from the old Ursuline convent in Columbia, were also installed.
St. Andrew has a membership of about 110 households and serves the missions of Sacred Heart in Blackville and St. Theresa in Springfield.