DANIEL ISLAND—On Easter Sunday, a spirit of hope and new beginnings filled the gymnasium at Bishop England High School as more than 1,000 people celebrated the first Mass for the new St. Clare of Assisi parish.
“I was so overjoyed, it was just one of the most joyful times for me,” said Betsy Sarsfield, a parishioner. “You could just look around and see that this parish is going to be wonderful. It’s going to be like what we’ve dreamed about. This was the day we had waited for. All our time and talent was worth it.”
Sarsfield was a founder of the Good Shepherd Club, a group of Catholics on Daniel Islander who met together beginning in 2012 for spiritual and social events. The group was a way for people to get to know each other and it quickly grew to more than 350 members who now form the foundations of the new parish.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone announced the establishment of the parish in January, and approved the St. Clare of Assisi name on April 2.
The Easter liturgy drew a wide range of people, from young families to senior citizens. Visitors to the area also attended, including some who drove from Bluffton to visit relatives. A guest harpist from the Charleston Symphony Orchestra accompanied the choir.
Organizers had set up 500 folding chairs, and Sarsfield said they were overjoyed to see the chairs fill up and people quickly begin to fill the bleachers.
Father H. Gregory West, pastor, said the day was a chance to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and the growth of the Church.
“We were celebrating not just the present, but what the future is going to bring,” Father West said. “People had been praying for a new parish on Daniel Island for years, and in God’s time, the time came. They are just ready to get to work to build this community. There’s a lot of relief and faith-filled excitement.”
John and Mary Gilsenan, from Daniel Island, attended the Mass, and Mr. Gilsenan said the morning of worship and fellowship was a special blessing for the couple.
“There was no shortage of reverence or solemnity even though we were in the gym, and there was nothing halting or hesitant about the spirit in the congregation,” he said.
Amy Dietrich said the Mass was “the best Easter gift” for her family and for the community.
“We are now able to worship and pray together with our neighbors and friends on a regular basis,” she said. “There was this overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that we have brought God back to the center of our lives here on Daniel Island.”
Read more about Catholics like you by subscribing to The Catholic Miscellany.