Jesuits celebrate 25 years in Charlotte
CHARLOTTE — 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the Jesuits at St. Peter Church in Charlotte.
The parish celebrated with a series of events which concluded with a Jesuit-concelebrated Mass on June 26. The Mass was followed by a reception where Jesuit Father Joseph Sobierajski signed copies of his recently published book, "Homilies of Joseph Sobierajski."
St. Peter Church was built in 1851 in what was then the southern tip of Charlotte. It was later rebuilt after an explosion at a nearby factory damaged the building's walls and foundation. As the city grew and more Catholic churches were built, the parish's population diminished. In 1970, St. Peter Church ceased being a parish.
Then, in 1986, the church regained parish status and the pastorate was assumed by Jesuit priests of the Maryland Province. As the population in the urban area of Charlotte has swelled, the uptown parish has continued to grow as a community deeply concerned with outreach to those in need.
The pastor of St. Peter Church, Father Patrick Earl, was the principal celebrant at the anniversary Mass, celebrated on the Feast of Corpus Christi. Father Earl pointed out the appropriateness of the anniversary celebration being held together with the celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ:
"We celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord, our nourishment in our lives as disciples of Jesus. And we remember the arrival of the Jesuits here at St. Peter's in 1986. We remember those who have accompanied us on our journey as disciples of Jesus. And these events belong together. What we celebrate and remember is God's way of dealing with us (through) the Incarnation. God's Word must become flesh, must become seeable, touchable flesh in Jesus. And Jesus must become seeable, touchable flesh, in us."
Father Earl invited the four Jesuit concelebrants "to remember some grace times for them here at St. Peter's." The Jesuit priests present at the Mass were: Fr. Joseph Sobierajski, long-time pastor of St. Peter; Father Thomas Gaunt, one of the first Jesuits to come to St. Peter; Father Vincent Alagia and Father Timothy Stephens who, Father Earl said, "first came to St. Peter's as a deacon ... and now he comes to us as a big muckety-muck: Tim is the treasurer of the Maryland Province (of Jesuits)."
After the priests spoke, parishioners were invited to "remember and give thanks for God's greatness."
The parishioners stood up and told of times that the Jesuit priests of St. Peter Church impacted their lives. They recalled the day in 1986 when they heard "the Jesuits were coming to our Church"; they told of a parish that cared for the homeless, hungry and abused; they praised "a welcoming church in a country that might be an adoptive country for some of us"; and they all repeatedly thanked the priests for their 25 years of service to the parish.
The parish sponsored a music competition for the anniversary celebration. The music for the Mass consisted of hymns written by winners of the 2011 Ignatian Hymn Contest.
Pictured at top: Jesuit Father Joseph Sobierajski signs a copy of his recently published book, "Homilies of Joseph Sobierajski," at a reception during the weekend-long 25th anniversary of the arrival of the Jesuits at St. Peter Church in Charlotte. On the wall behind him hangs a remnant of the church's famous fresco by Ben Long that collapsed in 2002. (Christopher Lux, Catholic News Herald)
-- Christopher Lux, correspondent
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