By AMANDA GREENE
St. Mary Catholic Church in Wilmington is many marvels.
It’s an artistic marvel. The church’s domes of brick and stone dedicated in 1912 use no steel or wood beams and no nails.
Its ministry to the poor, St. Mary Tileston Outreach, serves about 9,000 people a year. Its newer dental clinic serves hundreds.
“I’ve been here just under six years, and St. Mary is very well known in the community, and the poor know us as well,” said Father Bob Kus, St. Mary’s priest.
And without much parking in its Fifth Avenue neighborhood, the church welcomes thousands each weekend to six services. The church has about 6,000 members.
Today, the parish welcomes immigrants from every continent except Antarctica. It has the first Hispanic affiliate of the Maryknoll Society in the United States.
In January, the church opened a medical clinic near its sister parish in
Reitoca, Honduras. On its first day, the clinic served 280 area villagers, said Father Kus.
And this week, St. Mary is celebrating another major milestone – its centennial – with a special Mass at 6 p.m. Friday (April 13) at the church on the corner of Fifth and Ann streets. Bishop Michael Burbidge of the diocese of Raleigh will officiate the Mass.
A mother church for Catholics in the eastern part of North Carolina, St. Mary was dedicated as St. Mary Pro-Cathedral in 1912 and returned to being St. Mary Church in 1925, when the Diocese of Raleigh was established.
Viewed as a sacred place of contemplation, the church was deemed a shrine in the Diocese of Raleigh in 2005.
And soon it will become a basilica, the second in North Carolina. Father Kus recently received word that one of two Vatican congregations (institutes) have already approved St. Mary’s basilica documents.
“And I’m told the other approval won’t be long at all,” he said. “But that will require a name change so we’ll have a separate celebration for that.”
Amanda Greene: 910-520-3958
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