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Holy Family grows from mission to majestic

HILTON HEAD ISLAND—Anne Scott has been a parishioner at Holy Family Church from the start, when it was still a diocesan mission.

That was in 1966, when a new car could be had for $2,500 and you could put a gallon of gas in it for 30 cents.

Anne and her husband Bob retired to Hilton Head Island from Chicago when the area’s status as a resort/vacation draw was still fairly new.

Members of the choir wait to sing during a recent Mass. The 50th anniversary celebration will be held June 11.

Miscellany/Gerald Weaver: Members of the choir wait to sing during a recent Mass. The 50th anniversary celebration will be held June 11.

Bob passed away four months ago, but Anne has no plans to leave.

“We love it here and we love everything about Holy Family,” she said, as the church prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The Scott’s home in TidePointe, a retirement community on Hilton Head, is a five-minute drive from the church. For years, Anne and her husband were active in a variety of ministries. They served in the choir, lectored and formed prayer groups, among other parish commitments.

Anne celebrated a birthday of her own in May, her 94th. She’s the parish’s last surviving original member.

“[Holy Family] has a nice group of people,” she said. “All of the pastors have been very attentive to us over the years.”

A brief history of the parish on its website notes that about 40 people, mostly visitors, attended the first Mass. That celebration was held at the old William Hilton Inn, but as attendance grew, Mass was moved to the larger Adventure Inn.

“There were maybe 10 or 12 of us back then,” Anne said. “We would gather for Mass in the bar at the [Adventure] Inn.”

In December 1971, ground was broken on a new church on land deeded to the diocese by the Sea Pines Company. That church was dedicated two years later, according to the website. A religious education building and parish hall were added in 1977 and named in honor of the parish’s first pastor, Father David Schiller.

Then, in 1985, Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler approved construction plans for a larger church on the same property, with the previous building remodeled into a multi-purpose facility.

That initial dozen-or-so membership of the mid-60s has grown to more than 700 registered families today, a figure that doesn’t take into account the significant number of visitors to Mass each week.

“Holy Family, like Hilton Head Island itself, is made up of people who have come from other places,” said Msgr. Joseph Hanley, pastor. “The resident community consists mostly of retired people along with some younger families with children.”

“Our visitors range from those here for a brief vacation to those who are part-timers — here for several months of the year ­— and in many cases repeat visitors who come regularly year after year and consider Holy Family their home when they are here,” he said.

As such, Msgr. Hanley said, the parish strives to be welcoming.

Miscellany/Gerald Weaver: Holy Family Church on Hilton Head Island will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a Mass and reception on June 11.

Miscellany/Gerald Weaver: Holy Family Church on Hilton Head Island will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a Mass and reception on June 11.

That graciousness helped lead the Mahoney family here from Massachusetts five years ago.

“Holy Family is a beautiful church with a welcoming faith community,” Denny Mahoney said.

The Mahoneys said they were very involved in their parish in Massachusetts, and quickly dove into Holy Family activities. Nancy Mahoney joined the ladies guild, started a prayer shawl group and assisted the new parochial vicar from South America, Father Jorge Gallo,  with his English, Mr. Mahoney said.

He serves on the steering committee charged with planning events for the 50th anniversary, an effort that includes gathering and updating the parish history, and putting together a visual media presentation that helps make that information more easily accessible.

Miscellany/Gerald Weaver

Miscellany/Gerald Weaver

“We have a two-page timeline of the church, along with both a short and long history of Holy Family that we have updated,” Mr. Mahoney said.

The committee also is updating the church’s “Walking Tour of Holy Family”, which will include “explanations and pictures of everything from our shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, to the large Our Lady of Fatima window in the church, to a clerestory with multiple stained glass windows telling the history of the Catholic Church in the southeast,” he said.

On June 11, Msgr. Hanley and Father Gallo will concelebrate with Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone at the 50th anniversary Mass. A reception will follow, with slide and video displays recounting the history.

The priests at Holy Family now bring Mass each week to Anne Scott and other parishioners at the retirement community, who are unable to get to the church — a routine she hopes she can briefly suspend for the anniversary.

“If I can get a friend with transportation to take me, I plan to go,” she said.


Top image: Miscellany/Gerald Weaver: Holy Family Church on Hilton Head Island celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. A small group of Catholics used to gather at a local inn for Mass before the parish was established.

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