Coverage Areas:  National |  South Carolina |  Aiken |  Beaufort |  Charleston |  Columbia |  Greenville |  Myrtle Beach |  Rock Hill
Menu

Maronite Catholic community plans to purchase a church

Father Bartholomew Leon, OSB, stands in front of the 2.5-acre lot of the former Church of Christ in Greer, which the Maronite community of Greenville plans to purchase by the end of December as the new home of St. Rafka Maronite Mission

Father Bartholomew Leon, OSB, stands in front of the 2.5-acre lot of the former Church of Christ in Greer, which the Maronite community of Greenville plans to purchase by the end of December as the new home of St. Rafka Maronite MissionGREENVILLE—Maronite Catholics in the Upstate will soon have their own space to worship.

Benedictine Father Bartholomew Leon, pastor of St. Rafka Maronite Mission, recently received permission from Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron in Brooklyn, N.Y., to move forward with plans to purchase a church complex off S.C. Highway 14 in Greer.

“Part of what I was sent here for was to gather this scattered community in and eventually come to this point where we could have our own facility,” Father Leon said in an interview with The Miscellany. “We’ve been talking about this and doing fundraising and had recently started looking around for a property.”

Father Leon learned about a 2.5-acre lot, which was formerly owned by a Church of Christ congregation, from a parishioner. The site includes a small church and another building with classrooms, space for a parish hall and a kitchen.

According to Father Leon, the realtor originally said the parcel had been sold but then called back because that contract fell through.

Father Leon and a few parish members inspected the property and “fell in love with it,” he said.

Members of St. Rafka had to come up with an initial payment of $100,000 in order to obtain permission from the eparchy. After they raised the money, Chorbishop Michael G. Thomas, vicar general of the eparchy, inspected the site during the first week of December.

Father Leon has also communicated with Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston regarding the purchase, which will cost about $400,000.

Father Leon said they would like to close on the deal by the end of December. He said members hope to have renovations completed so Bishop Mansour can consecrate the church shortly after the new year.

The Maronite Church is in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. It evolved from the worship of early Christians in what is now Syria and Lebanon.

Many St. Rafka members are Lebanese by heritage or are immigrants from several Middle Eastern nations. The mission was founded in 2002 by a core group of Lebanese Catholic families from around the diocese. Since then, between 90 and 100 people a week have attended Mass in Gallivan Hall at St. Mary Church in Greenville.

“I never thought in all my years as a priest I would be founding a church,” Father Leon said. “Whenever you read the history of any particular parish, you see the name of the first pastor, and I never thought I’d see myself in this position. But this is so exciting.

“I think the wonderful thing is our community has worked so well together,” he said. “They’ve wanted this, they’ve affirmed it and they’ve contributed to it. There are so many cultures, people from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Palestine, all working together as Christians!”

The Maronites are one of three Eastern rite churches in the diocese. The Melkite Greek Catholic Community, led by Father Titus Fulcher, meets weekly at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Charleston. The Grand Strand Byzantine Fellowship recently purchased property between Myrtle Beach and Conway and hopes to begin holding weekly Mass there in January.






  • Diocesan Events Calendar
    View All Events
    Aug 1910:00 am Volunteer Workday and Open House Potluck
    From the Calendar of St. John School North Charleston
    Aug 258:00 am Day of Prayer for Deacons
    From the Calendar of Diaconate
    Sep 1 Daniel Rudd Fund Application Closes
    From the Calendar of African American Ministry
    10:00 am Junta de Equipo Diocesano de Emmaus
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    Sep 18 National Association of Black Catholic Administrators Annual Meeting
    From the Calendar of African American Ministry
    Oct 13 Diocesan Evangelization Conference
    From the Calendar of Ethnic Ministries
    Oct 278:00 am Day of Continuing Education for Deacons
    From the Calendar of Diaconate
    Nov 1 Black Catholic History Month
    From the Calendar of African American Ministry
    Nov 1010:00 am Junta de Equipo Diocesano de Emmaus
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    Nov 1210:00 am Junta Diocesana
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    Nov 17 Diocese of Charleston Native American Catholic Heritage Celebration
    From the Calendar of Native American Ministry
    Nov 18 Vietnamese Martyrs Celebration
    From the Calendar of Vietnamese Ministry
    Dec 1 Black Catholics Heritage Celebration
    From the Calendar of African American Ministry
    Dec 15 Simbang Gabi for Filipino Catholics
    From the Calendar of Filipino Ministry
    Dec 25 Diocesan Television Christmas Special Fox 21
    From the Calendar of Ethnic Ministries
    Jan 412:00 am Class 2019 Ordination Retreat
    From the Calendar of Diaconate
    Jan 812:00 am Retiro Espiritual de Emmaus
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    Jan 1210:00 am Junta de Equipo Diocesano de Emmaus
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    Feb 911:00 am Ordination of Permanent Deacons
    From the Calendar of Diaconate