With the founding of St. Andrew’s Mission in 1929 by St. Mary’s Parish in Georgetown, an ongoing Catholic presence was established in Myrtle Beach. However, the lack of a church building and a resident pastor in the area meant that, for many years, Mass had to be offered in private homes or in the ballroom of the Ocean Forest Hotel.
In the late 1930’s, land was purchased at 29th Avenue North and Kings Highway and a small church building seating 120 people was constructed at a cost of $5,000. At the time the building was dedicated by Bishop Walsh on August 27, 1939, there were only three Catholic families living in Myrtle Beach and two Catholic families living in Conway.
By 1946, Father Richard C. Madden had been assigned as pastor of St.Andrew Parish which encompassed all of Horry County and served the needs of the Catholic families living in an 1152 square mile area.
With the increasing Catholic presence in Myrtle Beach, caused in part by the reactivation of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in 1954, it became clear that there was a need for a Catholic School. In 1956, St. Andrew's School was built to serve both the parish and the Catholic families of the Air Force Base. The Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy operated the newly built school which was initially comprised only two grades.
To meet the growing needs of the Catholic community, the existing church building, which seats up to 700, was constructed in 1964 on property located at Kings Highway and 37th Avenue North. In 1968, the old rectory was moved from 29th Avenue North to its current location behind the church building.
By 1973, the school had grown to encompass a full eight grades and was staffed by the Little Franciscan Sisters of Mary from Worcester, Massachusetts.
However, in 1987, the sisters were recalled by their order and Mr. James Sertell, a St. Andrew school teacher, became the first lay principal. Less than two years later, a wing was added to the school to provide an up-to-date science lab, computer room, enlarged library and adequate administrative office space. The vacant convent was also converted to a Parish Center.
The growth of the parish continues. As of the year 2000, there were over 1,100 registered families at St. Andrew’s Parish. As of 2008, that number had grown to over 1,700 families. With a large number of visitors joining our parishioners each week, Sunday Mass attendance ranges from 2,800 to 4,500.
In recent years, to accommodate the large number of Easter attendees, Masses have been offered at the Convention Center or The Palace Theatre. Depending upon the date of Easter, approximately 8,000 to 12,000 people attend these Masses annually.
As the Myrtle Beach area has developed into a year round resort destination and a winter haven for northern retirees, St. Andrew’s Church and School has continued to meet the needs of a growing Catholic population.
With a vision for future growth, a 16,000 square feet Community Life Center was constructed in 2006 to include a gymnasium, kitchen, meeting rooms, storage space and offices.
As our history has shown us, the future of our parish is very bright. Rapid growth brings new challenges and new responsibilities. But with these challenges and responsibilities comes the privilege and excitement of accomplishing our parish mission.