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A new era for St. Mary Help of Christians

AIKEN—A fresh era for the faithful in Aiken started with the dedication of the new St. Mary Help of Christians Church on Feb. 2.

The larger church is much needed and a long-time dream come true. Parishioners at St. Mary Help of Christians have been attending Mass in the family life center at nearby St. Angela Hall for nearly 10 years, since they outgrew the old church built in 1905 and located nearby on Park Avenue. The parish currently has more than 1,800 households.

Hundreds of people, many of them bundled in heavy coats and scarves, braved gusting winds and frigid temperatures to stand outside for the beginning of the ceremony,which started with the rosary.A group of musicians and singers performed hymns in Spanish.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone and more than 30 visiting priests processed from St. Angela Hall across the street and up to the front of the church. The group included Father James LeBlanc, former pastor at St. Mary, and two priests who grew up in the Aiken parish, Father Andrew Trapp and Msgr. Richard D. Harris, vicar general for the diocese.

They were flanked by dozens of Knights of Columbus and men and women from the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

The bishop looked around, taking in the large crowd before making some brief remarks. He summed up the attitude of many in attendance with one simple sentence, “Brothers and sisters, this is a day of rejoicing!”

Bishop Guglielmone accepted a copy of the building plans and the church key.

He and Father Gregory Wilson, St. Mary’s pastor, knocked on the door, unlocked it and a ribbon was cut.

To spiraling organ music and the voices of a choir, the crowd streamed down the aisle into their new place of worship, many looking up and smiling at the soaring ceilings, elegant gray walls, and dramatic marble altar.

The church holds about 970 people, but organizers estimated about 1,200 attended the ceremony. People stood along the sides of the aisles and were lined up in the back.

During the Rite of Dedication, Bishop Guglielmone deposited relics of saints within the altar, anointed the altar and walls with oil, incensed the altar and inaugurated the tabernacle.

In his homily, the bishop reflected on the fact that the dedication coincided with the feast of Christ’s presentation in the temple.

He said just as Jesus’ parents presented him to God on that day, it was fitting that St. Mary’s community was dedicating their new church to God.

“What a beautiful place this is, and it has been long awaited,” he said. “Mary presenting the Lord to God and God’s people on this day is a beautiful image of what is happening here. This ceremony is a sign of St. Mary Help of Christians’ presence in the community. Because of this church, people will come here to seek the very presence of God in their lives through the Mass, to repent from their sins, to pray. Those whose hearts and minds are open to Him will be transformed.”

At the end of the Mass, Father Wilson told the congregation how important gratitude was on this special occasion.

“Our parish first and foremost needs to be thankful to God, and also to our patroness the Blessed Mother, who continues to point the way toward her Son,” he said.

The new church cost $8.9 million to build and was designed by architect James McCrery of Washington, D.C., who wanted to reflect classic architecture as well as the historic nature of downtown Aiken in his design. Construction was done by RW Allen of Augusta.

McCrery’s dedication to classic influence is evident throughout the structure. One of the most dramatic elements is a baldacchino in front of the altar that reaches toward the ceiling. It is made of wood that is painted to resemble tricolor marble. A baldacchino is a canopy of state over an altar and is frequently seen in older European churches. Janet Morris, director of facilities at St. Mary Help of Christians, said the structure in the new church is also called a ciborium.

Work by local and regional artists is prominent throughout the space. The statues of Peter and Paul which flank the altar were made by Nick Ring, a sculptor who runs Ring Studio in Greenville. All of the metal work, including hanging lanterns and the gilded cross and two finials on the steeple, were created by David Cianni of Aiken. Painted rondels that show different symbols of the Blessed Mother that hang on the walls were crafted by Aiken artist Alice Judd. A bronze statue of St. Joseph commissioned for a shrine on the right side of the sanctuary is being made by Susie Chisholm of Savannah.

“We’re so blessed to have local artists, people here not just in Aiken but around the state whose talents and gifts have had such an impact on this project,” Morris said.

Ernie Chaput, a long-time parishioner who served as chairman for the building committee, said the new church is the result of many years of work and prayer.

“We all felt like we wanted to take the time and do this right, because you don’t get many opportunities to build a proper church,” he said. “We wanted to make sure it truly was a church that would last the parish for the ages, and that’s what we have. It was a privilege to be part of building this very beautiful edifice.”

 

New appointments

CHARLESTON—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone has made the following appointments for priests in the Diocese of Charleston.

Effective Feb. 1, 2015:
Rev. Ignatius Smith, OFM, is appointed Administrator Pro-Tem at St. Joseph Church and School in Anderson.

Effective Feb. 9, 2015:
Rev. Marek Sotek, Parochial Vicar at St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton, is appointed Parochial Vicar at Stella Maris Church on Sullivan's Island.

Effective Feb.10, 2015:
Rev. Christopher Smith, Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Taylors, is appointed Pastor at Prince of Peace.

   

Ursuline Sister Anthony Wargel dies at 100

LOUISVILLE, KY. —Ursuline Sister Anthony Wargel died Jan. 24 at Mercy Sacred Heart. She was 100. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Jan. 30 in the motherhouse chapel with burial in St. Michael Cemetery.

She was born in Evansville, Ind., and entered the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville in 1932. She taught school for 60 of her 83 years as a member of the Ursuline congregation. Sister Anthony earned a bachelor’s degree from Ursuline College in Louisville; a master’s from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Penn.; and certification in remedial reading from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.

In Columbia, S.C., Sister Anthony taught and tutored at St. Joseph (1957 to 1958 and 1981 to 1992) and at St. John Neumann (1992 to 2002) schools.

Until the age of 91, she remained active as a tutor. She also served in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

From 2005 to 2014, she led rosary prayer services at Belmont Village in Columbia, repaired and made rosaries for the homebound, and then continued her rosary ministry with parents of children enrolled in Sacred Heart Model School in Louisville.

She is survived by her nephews, Father William Wargel, Paul Wargel and Michael Ziliak in Evansville, Ind., Tom Wargel in Louisville, Ky., Jim Wargel in Rochester, Mich., Charles Wargel in Saginaw, Mich., Alan Ziliak in Wauwatosa, Wis.; her nieces, Kathy Anderson in Nashville, Ind., and Patty Zandee in Phoenix, Ariz.; and her Ursuline community.

Condolences may be made to the Ursuline Sisters and mailed to: Mission Advancement Office, 3105 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40206.

   

Trappist Brother Robert Wojciechowski dies at 85

MONCKS CORNER—Trappist Brother Robert Wojciechowski died Jan. 31 at Mepkin Abbey. He was 85.

The Mass of Christian Burial and burial were held at the abbey Feb. 7.

Brother Robert was born June 19, 1929, in Detroit, Mich., a son of Edward and Wanda Kaspzyk Wojciechowski. He entered Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky on Dec. 17, 1950. He was sent to Mepkin Abbey on Oct. 19, 1955, and made his solemn profession of vows into the Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance on June 24, 1956.

He is survived by a brother, Floyd Alberts, of Flat Rock, Mich.; a sister, Margery Pupa, of St. Clair Shores, Mich.; a sister-in-law, Judy Wojociechowski, of Inman; several nieces and nephews, and his brothers in the community of Mepkin Abbey.

Condolences may be sent to the monks at: Mepkin Abbey, 1098 Mepkin Abbey Road, Moncks Corner, SC 29461.

   

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