Our Lady of the Rosary’s new church ‘feels like’ God’s house
GREENVILLE—Our Lady of the Rosary Church has come a long way since parishioners first attended Mass 64 years ago in the living room of a small white house off Augusta Road.
From 1952 to 1955, the handful of Upstate Catholics gathered weekly at the house, which also served as the parish rectory. In 1955, they moved into a larger space, converting a former warehouse on the church grounds into a worship spot.
They would continue worshipping there for 60 years.
On Nov. 26, led by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, more than 400 filed into a gleaming new church a short distance from a wooden cross marking the spot where those initial Masses were celebrated.
Father Dwight Longenecker, then administrator and soon-to-be pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary, concelebrated the dedication along with several priests from Greenville-area parishes.
“This building is a culmination of 60 years of prayer and preaching of the Catholic faith,” Father Longenecker said shortly before the start of the celebration.
Parishioners handed the church plans and keys to Bishop Guglielmone, who then presented them to Father Longenecker before the bishop led the procession inside.
“Use them well,” Bishop Guglielmone told the pastor.
In a beautiful and fitting homily, the bishop reminded the congregation of their new building’s vital role in strengthening and nurturing their faith.
“We build a magnificent place such as this primarily so that people can come here in one way or another and find the presence of God,” he said in his homily. “The presence of God will be found in this place in so many ways; in the word of God, in the Blessed Sacrament — the very presence of Jesus Christ.”
That presence will also be experienced in all those who gather in this place, he said.
Following the homily, Bishop Guglielmone placed relics in the altar, including those of an unknown martyr of the early Church, St. Benedict of Nursia, St. John Neumann, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Maria Goretti. He then anointed the altar and walls of the church.
The Romanesque structure was designed by Greene and Associates Architects and built by Cely Construction Co., both of Greenville. The cost of the project was around $5 million.
In addition to the sanctuary, the church’s lower level will include a shrine to the Divine Mercy and a columbarium. Also, 42 stained-glass windows salvaged from a decommissioned Catholic church in Pittsfield, Mass., and set by the famed Wilburn Burnham studios in Boston, have been refurbished and placed in the new church. Among them is a depiction of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be canonized.
Pope St. John Paul II beatified St. Kateri in 1980 and she was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
By the look on his face, Christian LeBlanc, one of two principal architects for the new church, was clearly enjoying the moment.
“It’s hard to believe it’s real,” he said while standing with the large crowd gathered outside the doors.
LeBlanc, who is now a member of St. Mary in downtown Greenville, said his family attended Our Lady of the Rosary 50 years ago and he went to grade school there. That history, along with his affinity for traditional architecture in church buildings, led him to become involved in the project.
“The church is breathtaking,” said Susan Case. She and her husband moved to Greenville last June.
“To be here and to be involved in this parish and the new church is truly wonderful,” she said. “When you walk in, you feel like you are in God’s house.”
Edgar Paz moved to Greenville from Florida 15 years ago. His family fell in love with Our Lady of the Rosary long before the new church was built.
“We’re glad it’s finally here,” Paz said. “It’s beautiful.”
Michel Azmaly moved here from Israel in the mid-80s and has been a parishioner for 20 years. He said he hopes the new building will bring more people into the faith.
“I’m happy I’m here,” Azmaly said. “Father Longenecker has brought a lot of energy to the parish. He is rich in all aspects of his duties.”
Bishop Guglielmone announced to enthusiastic applause toward the end of the Mass that Father Longenecker, who had served as parish administrator for the past six years, had been appointed pastor.
The old worship space will take on another role soon, when it is converted into a reception hall.