Catholicism in the Beaufort area dates from the 16th century when Spanish missions were founded on Santa Elena, now known as Parris Island. The earliest recorded date for Beaufort’s connection with the Diocese of Charleston is 1835 when Fr. John Maginnis, pastor of St. Andrew’s Church in Barnwell, would visit Beaufort, followed by priests from Charleston and Savannah.
The original church was built in early classical revival style and deeded to the diocese by Michael O’Connor, an 1822 Irish immigrant, primarily as a place of worship for his family and the few other Catholics in the area. Bishop Ignatius Reynolds dedicated the church on November 14, 1846, under the patronage of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. It is the ninth oldest Catholic church in the Diocese of Charleston, which encompasses all of South Carolina. The first pastor was Fr. Jeremia J. O’Connell in 1847-48. During the Civil War the church was attended by Fr. James Hasson, who focused attention on troops on Hilton Head. It is said the church was used by abolitionists as a school.
After the storm of 1893 devastated the phosphate industry and local economy, St. Peter’s became a mission of Summerville until 1923 when military training was activated in the area. The interior was renovated at that time and a house was purchased nearby on Carteret St. to be used as a rectory. Prior to that time, priests rented a room at The Sea Island Hotel for a dollar a night. In 1943-46 the church doubled its size by enlarging the nave and enclosing the front porch. Today, the parish still includes a sizable number of military members.
Fr. Ronald Anderson, pastor 1954-66, was active in ecumenical outreach and fostering parish development. In 1959-60 The Richardson House on Barnwell Bluff in Pigeon Point was purchased and Pius X Parish Center was established. A neighboring house was purchased for a convent. In 1959, CCD enrollment reached 321 students in pre-K through grade 12.
Holy Cross Mission on St. Helena Island was founded in 1967 by Fathers Burke and Tuchy. In 1976, there were 338 families recorded in the parish. In 1984, it rose to 500 families. As the population increased, the need for a larger facility became apparent. The property in Pigeon Point was sold in 1983 and acreage was purchased on Lady’s Island for the future parish campus. Fr. Martin Laughlin became pastor in 1986 and began adoration of the Blessed Sacrament soon thereafter, expanding it to perpetual in 1988. A temporary church, built on the Lady’s Island site with a capacity of 450, was dedicated in December, 1988.
In 1991, the Catholic school was established and the new school building was completed in 1996. Our present church, consecrated on April 29, 2006 by Bishop Robert J. Baker with Fr. Ronald R. Cellini presiding as pastor, seats 1200 people. Perpetual adoration was moved to Our Lady’s Chapel in the new church later that year.
In 2012, a complete restoration of the original historic church was initiated by Administrator Fr. Paul MacNeil and the Historic Church Preservation Task Force. On February 22, 2013 Historic St. Peter’s Church on Carteret St. was re-opened with a Mass of blessing celebrated by Bishop Robert Guglielmone. It is presently available for occasionally weekday Mass, small weddings and funerals as well as tours of church and historic graveyard.
As part of the 10 year anniversary of the consecration of the current building, a tour booklet of items within the church. 10th Anniversary tour Booklet 2016