EDGEFIELD—St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church has been dealt a double blow by nature.
A severe thunderstorm that blew through the town in the spring of 2015 knocked the cross off the bell tower and also damaged its tile roof extensively.
The church, parish hall and parish office also have long-term damage caused by an earthquake that hit the area in 2014.
Father Emmanuel Andinam, the parish administrator, said the roof damage occurred when the 900-pound cross was ripped from the bell tower by gale force winds. The harm to the cross and its replacement cost was covered by insurance, but it wasn’t until later that he and parishioners discovered more problems.
“We discovered many tiles had been ripped off and we saw pieces that had fallen from the roof to the sidewalk and the ground around the church,” he said. “By the time we discovered the roof and water damage to the walls inside that had happened because of it, we had already filed an insurance claim and it was too late to file another one.”
The leaking roof has caused water damage not only inside the sanctuary, but in the parish office, parish hall and the church’s classrooms. Mold is becoming a problem in some of the rooms.
The February 2014 earthquake measured 4.1 on the Richter scale and was felt as far away as Columbia and central Georgia. Father Andinam said the consequences were initially not noticeable, but since then the foundation of the building has shifted significantly.
“We have side doors that can no longer be opened, and you can see gaps in the foundation,” he said. “We now have a church building that has been severely impacted by two natural events.”
Father Andinam said he is seeking emergency help for repairs from the Bishop’s Annual Appeal and is also exploring other fundraising options.
The church is on Jeter Street a few blocks from downtown Edgefield and has about 70 households. It has been home to the faithful in this small historic town for more than 150 years.
Prior to 1851, Catholics there were served by priests who visited from Augusta. From 1851 through 1865, St. Mary was a mission of St. Andrew Church in Barnwell. Land for the current church was purchased in 1856, and it was built by stonemasons from Ireland who had immigrated to the Carolinas.
The church was dedicated in 1860 by Bishop Patrick Lynch. Pope Pius XI first defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, and St. Mary was one of the first churches in the nation to be named in honor of it.