By Terry Cregar
GREENVILLE — When Father Charles Day was named pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary six years ago, he initiated regular church dinners as a way of strengthening the sense of community among parishioners. Earlier this month, Father Day led the biggest celebration in the parish’s history — its 50th anniversary jubilee celebration.
More than 250 parishioners and invited guests filled the parish gym for a catered dinner, the climax of a daylong celebration that started with an afternoon Mass led by Bishop Robert J. Baker.
“Congratulations on this special day to all who have been part of this parish pilgrimage of faith these past 50 years,” Bishop Baker said. “This is your – this is our special day.”
A number of parish charter members attended the festivities, sharing stories of Greenville during the early 1950s, when new businesses brought more Catholics from the north and west into what was the heart of the Bible Belt.
On June 14, 1952, Bishop John J. Russell, Bishop of Charleston, appointed Father Edward V. Chmely to start the new parish, then called Holy Rosary. Mass was celebrated in a 1,200-square-foot, wood-frame house that also served as the pastor’s quarters. Bishop Russell blessed and dedicated the building on Oct. 5, 1952.
Three years later, the parish built a hall that would serve as a gym, school and temporary sanctuary.
In 1966 the official name was changed to Our Lady of the Rosary. Parishioners began planning the jubilee celebration two years ago, naming Helen Lorenzen coordinator. She has been a member of the parish since 1965.
“I went to school here. I had my first holy Communion and my confirmation here. My children were baptized here, so I have a lot of history here,” Lorenzen said.
Catholics from parishes in the area pitched in to help make Our Lady of the Rosary’s celebration a success. A parishioner from St. Anthony of Padua’s in Greenville offered catering, while the official photographer is a member of St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Simpsonville. “It’s nice to keep it in the family,” said Jim Beischer, a member of the parish council.
The organizing committee also put together a 50th jubilee program with photos from the early days of the parish, a brief history of the parish, the school and a few of the parish ministries and missions.
“It’s been a lot of work, but we’ve had a good time with it,” Lorenzen said. “It’s been fun to get to know all of the parishioners and Father Day a little better.”
“I’m proud of all the people who have contributed to this celebration,” Bishop Baker said.
“The jubilee of a church is not of a building, but of the people of God who comprise it. May God continue to bless us.”
He stressed the importance of taking time to celebrate milestones like jubilees “to look at where we’ve come from and where we’re going, and especially to thank the Lord for the people who have gone before us — the priests, the sisters, the lay teachers and principals in our schools and our own family members.”
The Charleston bishop said celebrations like Our Lady of the Rosary’s renew his faith in the Lord and the church.
“Thanks to Father Day and to everyone who made this special event possible, and thanks to God for giving us this marvelous parish,” he said.