LANCASTER—Eight years after it started as a small Catholic community, Our Lady of Grace has become a parish.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone officially erected it to parish status on Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It had been a mission of St. Philip Neri Church in Fort Mill since 2013.
Father Jeffrey Kirby is the administrator for the new parish, which is located in a section between Lancaster and Charlotte, N.C., known as Indian Land.
In his official decree, Bishop Guglielmone said rapid growth in the Catholic community called for the change. The number of Catholics there started to grow rapidly in the early 2000s, largely because of retirees moving to Sun City Carolina Lakes. Others have located to the area as nearby Charlotte’s population swelled.
A small group of about 150 people started attending Mass in borrowed space at a Methodist church in early 2008 and the crowds had quadrupled by the end of that year.
An anonymous donor gave land for a new church and a groundbreaking was held in 2013. Bishop Guglielmone dedicated Our Lady of Grace’s church building on Aug. 15.
Oratorian Father John Giuliani, who served as pastor there for eight years, said the new parish is a sign of hope for the growth of the Church in South Carolina.
“We live in an age where so many parishes around the country are being closed or merged, so to have a new one established is a very positive thing,” he said. “It’s a recognition that this community has come of age, and is no longer dependent on another church for support. This is a result of the labor of many people for many years.”
Father Kirby said it is an honor and a special experience to serve Our Lady of Grace at this pivotal time.
“Very few priests have the opportunity to shepherd a parish at its establishment,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be here with the people to witness this, to experience it and celebrate it.”
Pat Latour of Fort Mill has been at Our Lady of Grace since the start. She was recruited by the late Jack Monahan, one of the parish founders, to work on a steering committee when the new community was first being considered.
“He wanted me to be involved so I helped work with getting everything set up in the beginning, and then I served as his second in command for the capital campaign,” Mrs. Latour said. “After he passed away, I took over and chaired the campaign. To have been involved in this from the beginning has been a blessing and an honor.”
Mrs. Latour said she and her husband Robert moved to South Carolina to retire nine years ago after considering several other locations.
“I really believe God brought us here so I could be involved in this church,” she said. “I feel like I was doing what God had asked me to do, and now I’m absolutely thrilled beyond words that we are now a parish.”