Friends of the Oratory

The Rock Hill Oratory community has long referred to those who assist us with financial support and prayers as the “Friends of the Oratory.” In 2010, however, we have a new definition of these friends. York County, SC residents — Catholic and non-Catholics — who have become aware of the history of The Oratory and its 75 years of work in the County, and Rock Hill especially, have formed a committee to provide long-term local support. Please read a statement issued by this new committee, aptly called Friends of the Oratory.

Love and Support ……

Coming Full Circle to The Rock Hill Oratory Community

Beginning in 1934 a small group of faithful dedicated Christian soldiers ….. modern day apostles …. made their way one-by-one to the small city of Rock Hill, SC to establish the Catholic mission community known as the Rock Hill Oratory. They came armed with youthful enthusiasm …. with a strong love of God and His son, Jesus Christ ….. and with the knowledge that although they had no money, they would somehow build this giving, spiritual community in His honor. It would be a place of joy and faith and social justice. They would live in Rock Hill, work in and for the people of Rock Hill, and die in Rock Hill, all the while spreading their Christian message of faith and joy to all who would listen.

Now, 75 years later, most of those early Oratorians have passed into the house of our Father in Heaven ….. others are still here, holding the fort as younger Oratorians come forth, train, and prepare to lead in the coming decades. The numbers of young men entering into the priesthood or brotherhood are down considerably from what they were 75 years ago, but the Oratory waits with faith, as they always have . . .

for just the right young men to come forward to join them and keep their community alive and vital and of service ……

for financial help to keep the Oratory secure for the future

for physical help from the community they have served so faithfully

and for guidance as they seek new visibility and effectiveness in a city that has grown more than they could ever have imagined 75 years ago.

Today, a small group of York County residents are coming to you, just as the Oratorians came to Rock Hill all those years ago. We too have faith that we can make a difference. But this time, we hope to make a difference FOR the Oratorians. We NEED to make a difference for them. They have served York County faithfully and without hesitation, even in the most trying of times. Only in the last couple of years have they even hinted that THEY might need OUR help now. They are proud followers of Christ, doing without when they can ….. not wanting to ask for help for themselves ….. but now it’s time.

Several of the Oratorians are elderly or ill. They cannot operate on the same physical level as they once did. Those who are younger and capable cannot possibly handle the amount of work that must be done to insure the service to our churches and community programs, or upkeep of the grounds and the buildings of their historic and once stately property.

The peacefulness of the Oratory, the imposing and beautiful facade of historic Newman Hall, the Memorial Garden, the Labyrinth Prayer Garden, the vegetable gardens, and all the little quiet, private, prayerful spots on the grounds require love and attention. We — the people of York County — can help with that.

The physical and financial security of the Oratorians — food, shelter, utilities, building maintenance …… all the same things we lay people must pay for …… require a good plan to take care of them today and in the future. Funding is going to be needed for many years ahead. The Oratorians have handled their finances well, but their expenses go up, just as ours do every year. Their home and offices and retreat facilities get old and need repair, just as our properties do. They receive no funds from the diocese. They have for 75 years been a totally self-sufficient community, earning what they could and grateful for all the donations that would come their way. But they need more in the way of consistent income to keep the bills paid. We, and our churches that have benefitted from the free services of the Oratory all these years, can help with that. Those who can’t commit to a regular financial offering can still help.


If you are a contractor, you can help. If you like to garden, you can help. If you are a serious history buff, we have a job for you. Engineer? Architect? Plumber? Carpenter? Painter? Landscaper? We have jobs for all of you. Boy Scouts? Youth Group? We can put your group to work. Event Planning skills? Love to bake? Love to host and entertain? We have jobs for you, too. Everyone’s skills and talents can be put to good use. We hope you will come forward to hear more about our plans and dreams to help the Oratorians.

Who are “WE?” We are the newly-formed “Friends of the Oratory” committee. With the blessing of Fr. Joseph Wahl, we have come together to work with the Oratorians (so as not to interrupt their work), to create a road map for the future. We’re now in the process of forming small parish-based groups who share our enthusiasm and calling to bring the Oratorians’ mission of joy and help full circle. Each Catholic church in York County will be asked to form its own group, and they will all eventually work together to fulfill the bigger plan of the Friends of the Oratory’s long-term goals ….. a comprehensive plan to include many different aspects of support for the Oratory: fund-raising, event-planning, renovation and refurbishing, landscaping, and the many tasks involved with all those things now and for the forseeable future.

We wish to identify individuals in all parishes who are skilled in organization. For the present, we seek those with leadership and organizational skills who know how to recruit dedicated volunteers, set realistic goals and put them into motion, and work with the Friends of the Oratory to fulfill the bigger plan to serve those who have served us, and to make this dream of taking care of the Oratory for another 75 years come true.

Please click here to download our Friends of the Oratory brochure containing a brief summary of the long-term job ahead. Read it over and please call one of us at the numbers below if you wish to help form your parish committee, or be involved in some other way.

We have a job for you!

Friends of The Oratory Steering Committee —

Jon Varvel, Lake Wylie, (803) 831-8247 — for the parish committee at All Saints

(See photos of the All Saints’ committee’s first project on behalf of the Oratory on our blog)

Gene Berres, Clover (803) 831-0188 — for fund-raising for the general committee