By DEIRDRE C. MAYS
PAWLEY’S ISLAND — Hulking bulldozers and mounds of earth were of no consequence to the family of ducks nesting in the center of the drive of Precious Blood of Christ Church.
Nor were the ducklings disturbed by the many cars driving around them to park for Mass and the following ground breaking ceremony held that Sunday Aug. 9.
The feathered family was just a reflection of the growth taking place at the Grand Strand parish where Father Charles J. Snopek, pastor of Precious Blood celebrated the beginning of the construction of the 800-seat church.
At the ceremony, the priest was flanked by Msgr. Thomas R. Duffy, dean of the Pee Dee and pastor of St. Michael’s in Garden City, and Father Francis J. Travis, former pastor of Precious Blood and now at Holy Cross in Pickens. Duffy announced that St. Michael’s would donate the second collection from Mass on Aug. 16 to the new building. During the ceremony, members of the building committee gave updates on the project status.
Father Snopek sprinkled holy water and blessed the site which had already been cleared of trees.
Noris Stone, a member of the building committee, described the church when Father Thomas A. Evatt arrived in 1984.
“It was a small building with a four-car garage,” he said. “It was a little mission church but the parishioners got together and in three weeks, turned the garage into a church. It got crowded quickly.”
The Spanish-style home was used as a convent. When Father Travis arrived, he lived in a one-room apartment above the church’s narthex.
“Father Travis got the church on its feet, and we’ll never forget you for that,” Stone told the priest and the crowd.
Bill Halasz, also on the building committee, announced that the rapid increase in the number of Catholics caused a two-month construction delay while plans were adjusted to increase the church in size to 12,000 square feet. The lake in front of the church will be increased by one-third. He said Dargon Construction will take 248 days to erect the structure when they finish site preparations. It is hoped they will begin building by the end of August.
“This will be a Lowcountry gothic church,” Halasz joked.
The cost of the project is now at $1.85 million, according to Bill Haubrich. The total will be $2 million. Already, the church has raised $900,000.
“It’s always been a dream to have a church here and now it’s a dream come true,” Father Travis said. “This is a good community that has tripled in size since it started. We used to have to put speakers outside for the people standing out there.”
Father Snopek said the local business community has been very supportive.
“People really want to have this project,” he said. “We are the largest congregation on the Waccamaw neck. We have 479 families which is about 1,050 to 1,100 people and we are growing from the bottom up; we have plenty of kids. I don’t think you’ll find a better family-oriented church in the state.”
Planning for the new Precious Blood began in 1995. Bill Otis, mayor of Pawley’s Island and a parishioner, credited Father Snopek’s abilities as pastor with carrying it through.
“The progress that has been made is a testament to that leadership,” he said.
Pete Reibold, construction coordinator for the building committee, said the front door will face the street and the structure will have expansion capabilities.
“In the two years of planning, the amount of folks coming into this area demanded the additional seating,” he said. “We decided we needed to build it big enough now rather than later. We are growing by about 75 families a year.”
PHOTOS: 1) A parishioner looks at the plan for the new 800-seat church. 2) Father Frank Travis, Father Charles Snopek and Msgr. Thomas Duffy shovel dirt at the ceremony. (By Deirdre C. Mays)