By Lance Hickey
North Asheville – For this week’s edition of our Where We Worship series, I had the opportunity to attend St. Eugene Catholic Church in North Asheville. I attended Mass on March 10.
Located just off Beaverdam Road, on Culvern Street, St. Eugene Catholic Church has influenced the North Asheville, Woodfin and Weaverville communities for nearly 60 years. The church, home to thousands of Catholics in the area, holds three Sunday Masses, including two English-speaking services and one Spanish-speaking service at its parish.
Established by former Bishop of Raleigh, Reverend Vincent S. Waters, St. Eugene began on June 21, 1959, while opening its doors to its current facility in April of 1969, according to church records. Father John Brown served as the parish’s first pastor, leading the church for ten years. Father Patrick Cahill, originally from Charlotte, now serves as the church’s head father. He has led the church since 2011.
Mass began at 11, the parking lot filled to the brim with scores of parishioners, many parking on the sides of Culvern Street as they made their way into the parish. Walking into the sanctuary, I found a seat in a back pew.
Mass began promptly as hundreds of parishioners found their seats on the first Sunday of Lent. Father Doug May entered the room in his traditional robe attire. Father May, who serves as the Father over Mission Education and Promotion, while also serving as a Father of Missions throughout the United States and abroad, welcomed the congregation. Another congregant stepped forward to deliver the church announcements.
As parish announcements were relayed to the congregation, the architectural design of the sanctuary came to focus. The baronial, yet modernized, room felt more like a dome with high octagonal ceiling. Exquisite paintings hang across the walls while a wooden cross suspended from the back of the altar.
The church followed by singing the gathering song of the day, titled “Merciful God.” Father May continued as he led parishioners into a confessional prayer before a short time for individual prayer.
The time came for the kids’ message and loads of children made their way to the front of the sanctuary. Father May gave them a short few words of advice before they headed out of the room to classes more personalized for their spiritual growth. The church sang “Go in Peace” as the children made their way out of the sanctuary.
Following a reading from Deuteronomy, the parish choir led parishioners into another melodic hymn titled, “O Lord, Hear My Prayer.”
As Mass continued, the congregation echoed their profession of faith as Father May, comfortably seated in a chair on stage right, delivered his message. May, who led Mass in Cahill’s place, has been a priest for 33 years. Before moving to the area, May served the Catholic Church in Cairo, Egypt for 20 years, including teaching for 10 years at Coptic Catholic Seminary. He spoke on the idea of embracing our humanity.
Following some more recitations by the father and the congregation, along with another hymn, the church headed into a time of communion. The father stood at the front as parishioners stepped forward row-by-row to take the Sacrament. Congregants then headed back to their pews and kneeled in prayer. In a united, echoed front, the church stated the “Lord’s Prayer” before singing the final hymn of the day. Mass was dismissed.
Mass at St. Eugene Catholic Church proved to be traditional, yet more progressive in its presentation, while remaining inviting to congregants of all ages. While located in North Asheville, St. Eugene hosts parishioners from across northern Buncombe County, affording Catholics in the area the opportunity to attend Mass at a convenient location.