Powerful witness: Joy, adoration mark Tryon church's centennial
TRYON — Catholics have been a part of this small, Southern town nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains for more than a century now. But never before have they given such a powerful witness to the faith the way they did on the evening of Sept. 9.
Pictured: In a historic first, a relic and statue of St. John the Baptist were processed through the streets of downtown Tryon on Sept. 9 by Father Patrick Winslow, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church and more than 200 parishioners from the parish to mark the church's centennial anniversary. (photos by Caroline Skellie and Patricia Roshaven)
For the first time in the city's history, Father Patrick Winslow, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church, processed in candlelight at dusk through the streets of downtown with a relic of St. John the Baptist accompanied by altar servers, choir members, Knights of Columbus and parishioners.
More than 200 people participated in the mile-long procession, which also featured a five-foot statue of St. John the Baptist on a cart bedecked with fresh flowers and ribbons, reminiscent of Old World-style celebrations for patron saints' feast days.
"I instructed my parishioners from the 'Roman Rituale,' a sacramental book of the Church, which speaks about solemn processions and informed them that such processions are symbolic of the Church as the bride going to meet Christ her Bridegroom," said Father Winslow. "The people then appropriately brought a spiritual dimension to the procession."
The choir sang, and throughout the entire procession the refrain of 'Ave Maria' was repeated by those participating.
"As we walked down the main street we caught people by surprise ... so much so that even the bars downtown emptied out to watch us. They were very respectful, very reverent," Father Winslow added. "We had one gentleman that lived on the procession route who heard something going on outside, turned off his TV and came outside to watch. He is not Catholic. He told one of our parishioners that it moved him to tears."
The mayor of Tryon, J. Alan Peoples, was also present for the centennial procession and echoed the sentiments of many non-Catholics who witnessed the parish's expression of faith.
"I saw more than one tear shed on the faces of the people in the candlelight," Peoples said.
Jane Sciacca, director of the Chamber of Commerce in Tryon and parishioner of St. John the Baptist for the past four years, helped plan the centennial celebration. She had been away from the Church for 32 years before meeting with Father Winslow.
"I can't tell you how big of an impact this parish has had on my life, and coming back to the Church," said Sciacca, who now sings in the schola choir at the church.
She also witnessed the power of the Eucharistic procession on the local community, stating, "I know of one fellow, a former Catholic, who told me that he was brought to tears, and is thinking of coming back to the Church!"
Long-time parishioner Grace McMahon, who has been a member for 25 years and remembers the 75th anniversary festivities, participated in the procession and conducted tours of the church during the centennial celebration Sept. 10.
"I have seen incredible growth (at St. John the Baptist Church). The church is just so transformed," said McMahon, referring to the recent renovations of the church itself and liturgical changes that have taken place under Father Winslow's direction.
It was also Father Winslow's vision to host an Italian feast over the weekend as part of the parish's centennial celebration.
"I come from the Northeast, from New York. In New York a lot of the immigrant communities, especially Italian communities, have big feasts every year. It's part and parcel of the Catholic culture and the larger culture. People come out from all religious backgrounds. It becomes a real opportunity to invite people who wouldn't otherwise experience Catholic culture onto our grounds and into our church."
More than 1,000 people from both North and South Carolina enjoyed the Italian feast on Sept. 10, which was run by more than 100 volunteers from the church.
"I knew from the outset that this generation had to do something to mark 100 years. We took a leap of faith and prayed for the resources to come (for the celebrations)," Father Winslow said. "And they came in ways unimaginable!"
Donations poured in from the more than 600 parishioners to create a centennial pavilion, park and memorial wall at the church to mark the 100th anniversary of the parish.
But perhaps the most edifying result of St. John the Baptist Church's evangelization efforts is that the RCIA program there now includes 12 people – 10 more than they had before the Sept. 9-10 centennial celebration.
"The effect of the celebrations is that they were truly evangelical," Father Winslow said. That certainly echoes the parish's motto, which is inscribed in the cornerstone of the church: "Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus" – "That in all things God may be glorified."
What about the next 100 years for St. John the Baptist Church?
"If the past 100 years is any indication, then in the next 100 years the church will be in marvelous shape," Father Winslow concluded.
The parish's centennial year celebrations will draw to a close with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Peter J. Jugis on Oct. 22 at the church.
— SueAnn Howell, staff writer
Pastors of St. John the Baptist Church
1911-1913 Father Mark Cassidy, OSB
1913-1915 Father Matthew Thompson, OSB
1915-1924 Father James Manley
1924-1929 Father Michael McInerney, OSB
1929-1944 Father Florian Checkhart, OSB
1944-1947 Father Vincent Mahoney
1947-1955 Father Francis Scheurich
1955-1959 Father Francis J. McCourt
1959-1960 Father Robert F. Shea
1960-1966 Father Joseph A. Kerin
1966-1968 Monsignor Peter McNerney
1968-1973 Father Vincent Stokes
1973-1975 Monsignor John F. Roueche
1975-1982 Father James J. Noonan
1982-1985 Father Guy E. Morse
1985-1989 Father Patrick Gavigan
1989-1990 Father Guy E. Morse
1990-1991 Father Mark Traenkle, SA
1991-1994 Father John Pagel
1994-1995 Father Pius F. Keating, SA
1995-1998 Father Lawrence Heiney
1998-2001 Father Gregory Littleton
2001-2006 Father Dean Cesa
2006-Present Father Patrick Winslow
Oct. 22, 1911: Dedication is held for the original, Gothic-style church which cost $2,225. It is the first Catholic church built in the new ecclesiastical jurisdiction west of Charlotte. It becomes a mission of Belmont Abbey and is operated by the Benedictines until 1944.
1923: First rectory is completed. It is designed by renowned Belmont Abbey architect, Benedictine Father Michael McInerney. Cost: about $3,700.
1944: Parish jurisdiction is moved from Belmont Abbey to the Raleigh Diocese.
June 25, 1959: Fire destroys the first church building, so the rectory is used for all church activities and Masses.
Sept. 24, 1961: Groundbreaking is held for the new church.
Aug. 2, 1962: Present church is dedicated by Bishop Vincent S. Waters of the Diocese of Raleigh. Cost of the new church: $60,000.
1967: New rectory is purchased and the old rectory is taken down.
1972: Parish is assigned to the new Diocese of Charlotte, which has been carved from the Raleigh Diocese.
June 15, 1986: Church's 75th anniversary is celebrated, and a bell is donated and dedicated for the church's existing bell tower.
2007: A new marble altar is installed in the sanctuary.
Oct. 22, 2010: The church's centennial year begins with Mass celebrated by Father Kieran Neilson of Belmont Abbey.
Sept. 9-10, 2011: Eucharistic procession and Italian Feast Day centennial celebration is held.
Oct. 22, 2011: The church's centennial year will conclude with Mass celebrated by Bishop Peter J. Jugis.