By RANDLE CHRISTIAN
COLUMBIA — St. Joseph Parish has set out on a journey of faith, hope and love. The parish, one of the largest in the Midlands, has outgrown both its church and school. Now the church community is coming together to improve and expand its existing buildings and add a couple of new ones.
In doing so, they will be carrying on the work of those who founded the parish in 1948, said Msgr. Charles Rowland, pastor of St. Joseph. “Our whole theme in this journey is we are thankful for the legacy of those who’ve gone before us. Now, it’s our turn to provide a legacy for those who come after us,” he said.
“Fifty years ago was the last time we were asked to make a contribution to bricks and mortar,” said longtime parishioner L.A. Marsha. “Many of us have never been called upon.”
The parish officially began their journey on Oct. 30 with a gala celebration at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center. Every adult member of the parish was invited to enjoy an evening of food, fellowship and prayer and discuss plans for the upcoming building campaign. Over 750 responded, filling the conference room, Msgr. Rowland said. “If any more people had shown up, I don’t know where we’d have put them,” he said.
“I was so impressed by the number of people who were there and the spirit,” said Sister Christina Murphy, principal of St. Joseph School. “New families, old families, sitting together, introducing and re-introducing themselves.”
St. Joseph’s third grade students entertained the crowd with a program that combined art, music and dance. The adult handbell and church choirs also performed. Keynote speaker Rick Felton of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific urged his listeners to respond to God’s call to be good stewards of the gifts he has given them. The evening ended with parishioners and choir members blending their voices together in praise of God as they sang “Lift High the Cross.”
The call to stewardship won’t go unanswered in the Andrews household. “Will and I are both 100 percent in favor of it,” said Colette Andrews. “Our generation definitely needs to give back. I hope it’s going to give us lots of opportunity to do more together (as a parish). What other churches are already doing — we’ll be able to do.”
Limited space has kept the parish from coming together for social gatherings. The planned parish hall/gymnasium will provide ample space for such events as well as a place for recreation. “This gives us the opportunity to reach out and touch a lot of people we may not have touched before,” said Pat DeMouy. “This benefits the entire parish, not just the people who have children in school.”
The school stands to gain six much needed classrooms from the expansion, which will accommodate its growing enrollment, Sister Christina said. The classrooms will also be used for youth and adult religious education programs. A new fine arts center, housing art, music, dance and drama classes, will enhance the school’s curriculum.
The church itself will be expanded to seat an additional 150-160 people, Msgr. Rowland said. The church grounds will provide more gathering places for parishioners and better accessibility for people with special needs.
The idea for making the church more welcoming and inclusive came from parishioners’ input during the Synod-implementation process held at St. Joseph, said parishioner and architect John Boudreux, who drew the master plan. “I’m an interpreter,” Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux’s plan gives the parish’s vision a concrete expression. Now it’s up to the parish to bring that vision to life. It’s an ambitious project, one that will require them to raise $3 million. Its success will be an affirmation of faith, hope and love, said John Hoefer. “Our faith is built on the premise that we should include everyone we can, and we have an obligation to expand the facilities to do that. The hope of our parish is found in the lives of our children. We have an obligation to those who come after us. And our love of Christ makes us want to give.”
“If each one of us respond to the love of Christ, then this will be a successful journey,” Msgr. Rowland said.