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Construction starts for new St. Mary Help of Christians Church

AIKEN—St. Mary Help of Christians broke ground on a long-awaited new church on June 16.

The groundbreaking comes after about seven years of Mass in the family life center because crowds long ago outgrew the old church, built in 1905.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass for the occasion, while more than a dozen visiting priests vested as well, including two who grew up in the parish: Msgr. Richard D. Harris, vicar general, and Father Andrew Trapp, pastor of Transfiguration Church in Blythewood.

“This parish community has been faithful to God, and has been the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to a community in need,” Bishop Guglielmone said in his homily. “With this project, you are saying we’re doing well, but we want to do better. We want to help even more people to experience the transcendent power of God.”

After Mass, a crowd of about 750 streamed across the road to the lot along Fairfield Street, where the new church will be built.

The bishop blessed the site and joined with Father Gregory Wilson, pastor, members of the building committee and others for the ceremonial first shovelfuls of dirt.

Father Wilson called the groundbreaking the result of many years of prayer, planning and dedication.

“Members of this parish have been so generous in making this vision into reality,” he said. “The parishioners have given a lot and are continuing to give to this project. It truly shows their faith and dedication to the glory of God.”

Ernie Chaput, a long-time parishioner and chairman of the building committee, said the entire project will cost about $8.9 million.

The land for the new church was donated to the parish by the Dykes family of Aiken. It formerly held a livery stable and then Dykes Building Supply.

Architect James McCrery of Washington, D.C., created a design that will reflect classic church architecture and seat more than 900. Construction will be done by RW Allen of Augusta, Ga., and is scheduled to begin in July with a hoped-for completion date of December 2014, Chaput said.

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