Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Peter's,
The past few months have been uniquely challenging for us at the Basilica as we’ve navigated the difficulties of COVID-19 and more recently, on-going protests nearby. Our Basilica staff consistently rose to face these hurdles, working harder than ever to communicate with you so that our ministry to you and the greater Columbia community could continue, albeit differently, but unabated.
Each passing week of this turbulent year has truly been an exercise in humility and gratitude for me. Every time I think the dust has begun to settle from the last crisis, a new one bursts onto the scene, reminding me to place my full trust in God. Every time I worry about how we will keep the lights burning and our many ministries thriving – you restore my confidence and optimism with your generosity and solicitude.
I write today in that spirit of gratitude and humility to share two important announcements that will have a significant impact on our parish life:
An adjustment to our Mass schedule, given Father Fryml’s impending July reassignment to Bishop England High School and the College of Charleston and the dictates of Canon Law, and
The exciting (and long overdue) replacement of our pews and kneelers, organ enhancements, refinishing and repairs to the basilica floors, as well as repairing and re-plastering of the front wall of the basilica.
As I make these announcements, and move forward with their implementation, I ask for your continued prayers and support so that our ministry can continue to grow and flourish.
1. Mass Schedule Adjustment
Over the past seven years Saint Peter’s has grown to approximately 1,300 families and 2,900 members. We were exceedingly blessed these past three years to have Fr. Fryml with us part time as he also served as the Chaplain at Cardinal Newman High School. We’ve also been blessed to have Fr. Johnbosco Duraisamy in residence as he serves as Chaplain at Providence Hospital. With Providence being sold to Prisma Health, Father Johnbosco will likely be reassigned to a parish, reducing our priestly staff from three to one and leaving me without assistance in the pastoral care of Saint Peter’s.
To ensure the Eucharist is celebrated with the dignity, reverence and devotion it deserves and demands, the law of the Church (Canon Law 905) permits a priest to celebrate Mass only once per day unless there is a shortage of priests or if pastoral necessity requires it. In those cases, a priest may only celebrate Mass up to three times per day on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.
For these reasons, we will need to adjust our weekend Mass Schedule. After consulting with our Parish and Finance Council members as well as our ad hoc Hispanic leadership and taking into consideration current and previous Mass participation and the most effective utilization of our staff, I have made a decision I believe will be best for all.
Beginning the weekend of July 18-19, the vigil Mass on Saturday evenings will be celebrated in Spanish, and our 1:00 p.m. Sunday Spanish Mass will be cancelled. This clearly affects both our English-speaking and Spanish-speaking parishioners, and it is my sincere hope that those of you who are accustomed to participating in the 5:30 p.m. English Vigil Mass or the 1:00 p.m. Sunday Spanish Mass will be able to make the adjustment and continue coming to Mass at the Basilica despite the inconvenience.
As we make these changes, I continue to look for opportunities to bring our parish community together as one body. One such opportunity is the expansion of our music ministry: our Organist and Choirmaster, Jordan DeRouen, will take on the responsibilities of leading music for our Spanish-speaking community. He has also agreed to spearhead the launch of a Hispanic Youth Choir—something very few parishes in the USA offer—that will give our Hispanic young people the opportunity to learn to read music and engage more fully in the life of the parish.
Our Sunday Mass schedule will otherwise remain unchanged with English Organ/Choral Masses at 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. and our Contemporary Mass at 5:30 p.m. Additionally, we will continue to offer Daily Mass on Monday through Thursday at 12:00 p.m. Again, I hope those who formerly attended the Saturday evening Mass will avail themselves of one of these options.
I ask for your prayers as we move forward with these adjustments immediately following Father Fryml’s departure in mid-July.
2. Summer Pew Replacement and Events
On July 8th, I celebrate my silver anniversary of ordination. Given the uncertainties of COVID-19, I am putting off a special Mass and reception until next Summer. However, I would be grateful for your prayers as I begin my next quarter century of service!
On July 11th, the Archbishop of Atlanta will celebrate Mass with the Bishop of Charleston at the Basilica to mark the 200th Anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese. This will be a Diocesan event – therefore I’m not sure how space will be allocated and expect most seats to be reserved. Still, given the necessity of cancelling many Diocesan commemorative events – we are honored to host this special Mass.
On July 12th, Father Fryml will spend his last Sunday with us and we will celebrate our last Masses in the basilica before beginning the final round of restorations and repairs in time for our own 200th Anniversary in 2021!
On Monday, July 13th, we will begin the process of dismantling and removing our pews and placing the parts in the former Key Shoppe so that the floor can be refinished, and the front wall repaired and replastered. New pews made from African Mahogany that match our existing pew ends but with vastly improved kneelers are being fabricated and will be placed in the Basilica in late August. We’re also investing in our Pipe Organ with three ranks of reeds being removed and refabricated, the console capacity expanded, and four additional ranks provided. Thanks to your generosity and commitment to the preservation and restoration of our beautiful, historic church, we are investing approximately $560,000 to accomplish all of this. In the Fall, I expect we will return for prayer and worship in absolute awe of all that has been done.
We could have waited to accomplish some of these things, but as the church had to be closed for six to seven weeks, we deemed it wise to consolidate our efforts so we hopefully won’t have to close down again for many more years to come.
I am happy to report between all the external and internal repairs to our infrastructure as well as the purchase of the land adjacent to the Cardinal Bernardin Center, you have invested approximately $3 million in Saint Peter’s and I couldn’t be more thankful for your understanding and appreciation of our basilica and desire to begin our third century with an edifice and physical plant that truly brings glory to God.
While this work is being done, as in the past three summers, we’ll celebrate Mass in Neglia Hall. I have often found our Masses there to be intimate, very warm, and friendly. Let us all pray that our return in September to the basilica will coincide with a vaccine for COVID-19 so we can do so without fear and be full of joy!
In closing, I would like to reiterate how grateful to you I am for your resilience, adaptability, and generosity as we weathered the storms of the past few months. Given the amount of change we’ve experienced and your ability to adjust, I pray you’ll remain faithful and supportive of this new plan of ministry. Together we can achieve great things for God and His Church, and I have every expectation we will continue to do so in Columbia’s capital city!
I look forward to seeing you again soon and hope you will not hesitate to contact me with your questions or concerns. God Bless you and your family.
Fr. Gary S. Linsky
The Very Rev’d Canon Gary S. Linsky, V.F.