On Sunday, June 19, 2011, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation on 18 members of Holy Trinity Parish, Williamston; St. Joan of Arc Parish, Plymouth; and the Catholic Community of Bertie County. The Confirmations took place during a special bilingual Mass of Thanksgiving marking the 50th Anniversary of Holy Trinity Parish and the 60th anniversary of the Catholic presence in Martin County. Some 500 people were in attendance, more than any of the three churches could accommodate, so the celebration was held at the Senator Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center in Williamston.
Concelebrating the Mass with Bishop Burbidge were Father Chet Artysiewicz, GHM, Pastor of the Catholic Community of Bertie County; Father Justin Kerber, C.P., Pastor of St. Peter Parish in Greenville; Father Arturo Cabra, Pastor of Mother of Mercy Parish in Washington; and Father Joseph Muth, a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore who has for seven summers brought youth groups to serve Holy Trinity Parish. Also in attendance were Glenmary Brother Jack Henn, GHM, of the Catholic Community of Bertie County; Sister Betty Bullen, IHM, former Pastoral Administrator of Holy Trinity Parish; Sister Kieran Williams, IHM, current pastoral Administrator of Holy Trinity; and Sister Arcadia Rivera-Gutierrez, DSMG, Pastoral Administrator of St. Joan of Arc Parish.
A missionary parish was established in Martin County in 1951 with the Rev. Thomas Williams appointed the first pastor. The district then was 96 miles from east to west and had 116 Catholics, residing chiefly in Columbia, Plymouth and Williamston. Mass was offered in homes during the week and at the Legion Hut or National Guard Armory on Sundays. Holy Trinity Church, the first church building for Catholics in the Albemarle Region, was dedicated in Williamston on May 14, 1961.
Sister Betty Bullen, IHM, served Holy Trinity as Pastoral Administrator from 1987-1999. Today, a majority of Holy Trinity parishioners are Hispanic, but Sister Betty remembers the first Hispanic that she met while in Martin County.
“She was a woman who had a child at the hospital,” she says. “I met her and asked her if she would like for me to visit her when she got home. She did, so when I visited her I invited her to church.”
Then, that woman told her where other Hispanics lived, and she went to visit and then learned of others. It was the beginning of the parish’s outreach to immigrants.
“It was a real mission,” Sr. Betty says, “I loved every minute of it. The people were so in need. ”
Sister Kieran Williams, IHM, came to Holy Trinity in August 1999. Within a month, before she was officially installed as Pastoral Administrator, three hurricanes -- Isabelle, Dennis and Floyd -- hit the area, leaving many homeless or with damaged homes. Even the church had to have a new roof.
During this same time, the parish received eight donated trailers. Members of Holy Trinity worked with volunteers from Habitat for Humanity to refurbish them as homes for some of the parishioners.
The year 2000 brought more work toward hurricane recovery. In January, the first of many mission trips brought youth -- 18 from Scranton, Pa. -- to help with hurricane cleanup.
Then on April 5, 2000, the parish was able to expand its ministry into a home -- a place for the Sisters and visitors to stay as well as a space for study, special programs and fellowship.
In 2004, Holy Trinity helped to form a Catholic church in Windsor. Two Glenmary Home Missioners -- Father Mike Langell and Brother Virgil Siefker -- arrived to help with the effort. Their group purchased a house in Windsor and began working to gather local Catholics to form the Catholic Community of Bertie County. The parishes continue to work together today. Holy Trinity now serves 100 families, or 400-500 people.
In his homily at the anniversary Mass, Bishop Burbidge thanked God “for the blessings He has extended to you and your parish throughout the years. I convey deep thanks to all the priests, consecrated religious and lay faithful who have offered and continue to offer faithful and dedicated service to the Lord and this parish and community.”
Above: Some 500 people filled the auditorium at the Sen. Bob Martin Ag Center in Williamston for the Mass and reception celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Holy Trinity Parish.
Below: Celebrating the anniversary Mass was the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge,. Center. Concelebrating, left to right, were Reverend Arturo Cabra, Reverend Joseph Muth, Very Reverend Justin Kerber, C.P. and Reverend Chet Artysiewicz, G.H.M.