FORT MILL—Access to the Byzantine style of worship in South Carolina continues to grow.
A mission was recently established in the Rock Hill area by the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, N.J.
Since Jan. 6, crowds ranging from 40 to 90 people have met on Saturdays in the parish life building at St. Philip Neri Church.
Ronald Somich, one of the main organizers of the mission effort, said his family missed the Byzantine style of worship when they moved to the Rock Hill area from Cleveland, Ohio, about seven years ago. Like others in the area, they had to drive to Charlotte or other locations if they wanted to attend Byzantine Mass, which is also known as the Divine Liturgy.
Somich said he and others spoke with Oratorian Father John Giuliani, pastor at St. Philip Neri, and received permission to pursue efforts to hold the Divine Liturgy on the parish property.
The Passaic eparchy supported the mission effort, and the first Mass was held in Fort Mill in late July.
Currently, Father Steven Galuschik flies to Charlotte each Saturday to lead worship for the community in Fort Mill, and then returns to lead Sunday Masses at his church, All Saints Byzantine Catholic Church in Fort Myers, Fla.
Somich said the weekly Divine Liturgy attracts people from Rock Hill and Charlotte, plus some who drive from as far as the Midlands. Many who attend are northern transplants who grew up Byzantine, while others are folks interested in the Eastern style of worship.
“It’s so exciting to be able to get back to the church where our children were baptized and where we are baptized,” Somich said. “We’re excited about being able to have the opportunity to grow the Byzantine Church in the Carolinas. It is a rare opportunity.”
The Fort Mill mission does not have an official name yet. This is the fourth one in South Carolina. Blessed Basil Hopko Mission outside Conway in Horry County was established in 2009, and is also led by the Passaic eparchy. Eparchies are the Eastern rite equivalent of a diocese.
There is also Holy Cross Eastern Catholic Mission at Transfiguration Church in Blythewood, and Dormition of the Mother of God Eastern Catholic Mission based at St. Rafka Maronite Church in Greer. Both are supervised by the Eparchy of St. Josaphat of Parma, Ohio.
The missions are all considered Byzantine but fall under different segments of the Eastern Catholic community. The eparchy that oversees the Blythewood and Greer missions is part of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Those in Conway and Fort Mill are aligned with an eparchy that follows the Ruthenian rite of worship, which traces its roots to an area of Eastern Europe that encompasses parts of Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and the Ukraine. The national headquarters for the Ruthenian rite is in Pittsburgh.
All segments of the Byzantine church in the United States are in full communion with Rome.
Divine Liturgy is held each Saturday at 4 p.m. in the parish life building at St. Philip Neri Church.
For more information, visit https://carolinabyzantine.com.
Image/The Miscellany: File photo of St. Philip Neri Church.