Dear Friends in Christ,
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I arrived on campus in mid-afternoon to set up for Confessions and Mass, and I met a couple in Miller Square who were taking pictures of the church and columbarium. I welcomed them to St. Mary’s and invited them to stay for Mass, and they explained that they live in the Low Country and aren’t Catholic but make a point of visiting our campus whenever they are in Greenville because it is so beautiful and peaceful. In fact, that is why they were taking photos: so that they could show their friends in the Low Country what they regard as the most sacred place they know.
I tell you this story not to brag about our facilities but in the hope that, by seeing our home through the eyes of visitors, each of us can appreciate what a high privilege and sacred duty we have here in being stewards of such a singular place. There is a perennial tension within the Church between using the fruits of human labor for the relief of human need and suffering and directing those same goods to the creation and preservation of the structures and public spaces in which human communities are formed by prayer, study, service and recreation. But in seeking inventive ways of resolving that tension, we must never forget that bricks and mortar can be the very tools of helping to serve deep human needs. Those visitors from the Low Country were drawn here to find what every heart seeks: a visible expression of the beauty of God and a tangible manifestation of the love of God. Perhaps the worst poverty of all is the soul annihilating absence of goodness, truth and beauty from human life, and that is one of the many reasons why Christians in every time and place have sought to create oases for the spirit by raising up dignified temples of divine worship, noble structures for the education of the whole person, and green spaces for the rest and recreation of both mind and body.
Those who came before us at St. Mary’s have bequeathed us a noble legacy which fulfills that goal of providing physical spaces in which the human spirit can soar, and it is given to us to maintain that precious patrimony and pass it on to those who will follow us. In the last decade we have made extraordinary progress in the expansion of our downtown footprint and the improvement of our buildings, and in the coming months I will begin to explain the vision for the next stage in our growth — including the provision of modern indoor restrooms in the church! For now, I ask only that you remember St. Mary’s as you make plans for your end of year charitable giving. We did not seek any new capital donations this year so that everyone could take a little pause from the pace of the last several years, and so our need for your gifts this December is great. Our visitors from the Low Country asked me to pass along their gratitude for the sacrificial stewardship that makes possible a place of beauty and peace such as our campus, and I add my voice to theirs: Thank you for your generosity and your commitment to St. Mary’s.