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Churches: Father Pat will retire from Precious Blood

By Jason Lesley
For the Observer

Father Pat Stenson told his parishioners Sunday he will be leaving Precious Blood of Christ Catholic Church within the coming months.

“It probably won’t be full retirement,” Stenson said in an interview this week, “but I won’t be running the show, maybe move on to a smaller church. I’m not sure yet.”

Stenson has been priest at the Pawleys Island church for 17 of its 30 years in existence. “It’s been a pretty good stretch,” he said.

The Catholic Diocese of Charleston, comprising the entire state of South Carolina, will notify all its priests of the opening at Precious Blood of Christ. “They can apply,” Stenson said, “and the bishop picks the one best suited.”

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone said Precious Blood has thrived during Stenson’s time. “Father Pat Stenson is a holy and caring priest who is committed to his vocation, his parishioners and his family,” the bishop said. “During his tenure as pastor of Precious Blood Catholic Church, the parish has grown in its size and its faithfulness. I credit that to his compassion, amiable personality and ability to empower his parishioners. Precious Blood Catholic Church is a strong and prayerful Church community because of Father Pat.”

Replacing Father Charles Snopek, who retired for health reasons in 1999, Stenson was appalled that children were learning their catechism in old single-wide trailers that had been put alongside the crumbling office building, according to a history of the church compiled by parishioner Sherby McGrath. “Even though he knew the parish was just completing a pledge campaign for the church, he realized the parish needed a new building. The church was now growing by 80 to 100 families each year,” she wrote.

A building committee recommended the Parish Life Center. It houses church offices and meeting rooms/classrooms along with a full-size gymnasium and a kitchen. Ground was broken for this building in 2004, and it was dedicated by Bishop Robert Baker on Sept. 17, 2006.

As part of the total plan for the campus, the old stucco house was razed once the Parish Life Center opened, and the columbarium complete with a landscaped prayer garden now sits at the end of the original pond.

Stenson saw an additional need: feeding the hungry. When the Parish Life Center was completed, he gathered a group of parishioners and asked them to develop an idea that would bring the community together on the parish campus and help fulfill his dream of opening a lunch kitchen.

From that meeting came Tastes at Pawleys, held for the first time in 2007 and showcasing local chefs and restaurants. Not only did Tastes provide the monies to open Father Pat’s Lunch Kitchen, it also contributed to other local charities whose mission also was to feed the hungry and nourish the lives of people in the community. In its first four years, Tastes returned $290,000 to the community.

Located in Founders Hall, Father Pat’s Lunch Kitchen is open two days a week for lunch, Saturday morning for breakfast and is experimenting with a Sunday lunch twice a month.

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