St. Peter’s Catholic Church has a great historical significance in the area for Catholics in South Carolina.
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. Fr. John Maginnis, pastor of St. Andrew’s Church in Barnwell, visited Beaufort, followed by priests from Charleston and Savannah.
The original St. Peter’s Catholic 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, encompassing all of South Carolina. The first pastor was Fr. Jeremia J. O’Connell in 1847-48. During the Civil War Fr. James Hasson attended the church. Fr. Hasson focused attention on the troops on Hilton Head. Later, Abolitionists used the church as a school.
After the storm of 1893 devastated the phosphate industry and local economy, St. Peter’s became a mission of Summerville.
In 1923 military training started in the area. Interior renovation took place at that time, and a house nearby on Carteret St. became the 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, promoted ecumenical outreach and fostered 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 became the convent. In 1959, CCD enrollment reached 321 students in pre-K through grade 12.
In 1967 by Fathers Burke and Tuchy founded the Holy Cross Mission on St. Helena Island.
In 1976, 338 families attended in the parish. In 1984, it rose to 500 families. As the population increased, the need for a larger facility arose. The property in Pigeon Point 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.
In 1991 the Catholic School was established in the Education Wing of the main building, and the current school building was completed in 1996. The 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 moved to Our Lady’s Chapel in the new church later that year.
In 2012, a complete restoration of the original historic church took place.
Administrator Fr. Paul MacNeil and the Historic Church Preservation Task Force initiated the restoration.
On February 22, 2013 Historic St. Peter’s Church on Carteret St. re-opened with a Mass of blessing celebrated by Bishop Robert Guglielmone. Today weekday Mass, small weddings and funerals as well as tours of church and historic graveyard take place.
St. Peter’s Catholic Church
70 Lady’s Island Drive