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The downtown chapel of St. Peter's Catholic Church has been closed due to safety concerns related to a sinking foundation and a bowing side wall, church leaders said.'
The chapel, built in 1846 on Carteret and Duke streets and called Historic St. Peter's by the church, is closed indefinitely as its walls are braced and the church begins a restoration of the chapel.'
"We just felt until we shore all that up ... it's best not to have people in there," said contractor Wayne Grabenbauer Jr., who was asked to assess the building's needs and surprised the church's staff with news that the foundation had dropped a few inches, possibly because of poor drainage.'
While the chapel has been sinking, a new church has been rising.'
St. Peter's has built a new, approximately $7 million church on Lady's Island, next to its former church building, which was built in 1987.'
Donna Alley, Beaufort's historic planner, said many downtown sanctuaries have been restored, mentioning work at St. Helena's Episcopal Church, The Baptist Church of Beaufort, and the ongoing restoration of First African Baptist Church in The Point.'
Grabenbauer said that the chapel likely would be closed for at least six months and longer if the wood flooring and plaster are restored.'
Karen Widenhouse, parish manager for St. Peter's, said the church planned for a complete restoration of the chapel, including the repair of a portion of the crumbling brick cemetery wall, but could not give an estimate of the project's cost or duration.'
After the chapel's closing a week ago, St. Peter's relocated its 18-year-old Eucharistic adoration to the Lady's Island campus.'
The worship, called Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the Catholic Church, has been in place for 18 years at St. Peter's and involves church members consecutively praying an hour at a time in front of a consecrated wafer given to Catholics during communion that they regard as the body and blood of Jesus Christ.'
"It is a very centering and spiritually nourishing experience to pray quietly and without distractions before the Lord," May Inglis, communications coordinator for the church, wrote in an e-mail. "(Worshipers) are up at all hours of the night, rain and shine holding fast to pray their hour before the Blessed Sacrament."'
Widenhouse said she did not know if the adoration would return to the chapel or stay on Lady's Island.'
The Rev. Ronald R. Cellini could not be reached for comment.