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 | By Theresa Stratford

A home church at last for parishioners of St. Clare of Assisi

Although physically located on Daniel Island, St. Clare of Assisi Church has been serving the greater Charleston area since 2014. A rapidly growing Catholic community that averages about five new families a week, St. Clare has been in desperate need of a home church to support its growth.

Since its inception on April 20, 2014, which was also Easter Sunday that year, the parish of St. Clare of Assisi has held weekly Mass at the Performing Arts Center at Bishop England High School. They celebrate weekday Masses and funerals by renting space at a nearby Anglican church.

Currently, St. Clare has about 3,000 individuals in 900 households registered. Father H. Gregory West, current and founding pastor, projects that numbers will continue to rise since many of their members are from Cainhoy, a neighborhood slated to receive an additional 30,000 homes over the next 20 years. Father West said that he predicts their total to be about 1,500 households by 2026. The parish actually encompasses an area that is twice the size of Daniel Island alone.

The community in which St. Clare now sits adds to its uniqueness — Bishop England High School is just across the street. The school will use the church for its weekly Mass, and the parish will continue to use school spaces for religious formation classes and events until construction of the ministry center is complete.

Plans for the new worship space are also meant to benefit the community as a whole.

“We plan to make our church a regional location of excellence in sacred music with occasional concerts and recitals open to the public,” Father West said.

The $22 million, 22,000-square-foot monolithic structure has a height of 180 feet with its tower and spire, making the church the sixth tallest structure in Charleston. St. Clare will have an elevator from the ground floor to the mezzanine and a total of 850 seats. The most recent construction update was the installation of the 120-year-old Franz Meier stained glass windows, which are each 18 feet high, plus the four-rank organ and pipes and landscaping. There are also 26 bells that were flown in from France for the church’s bell tower.

There will be two additional buildings on the 6.1-acre site at the corner of Seven Farms and Etiwan Park drives. Phase two of construction will include the ministry center, which will house offices, the youth center, music practice and meeting rooms and a nursery. Phase three will include building the parish hall, which will be a large event space with a kitchen.

“We have hired an architect for phases two and three and hope to break ground in 2024,” Father West noted.

The plans for St. Clare began shortly after the parish was created in 2015. The “Blessed to Build” campaign, a local fundraising effort, launched in 2017, and groundbreaking took place Feb. 23, 2020.

Father West said the campaign remains the most successful capital campaign in the history of the diocese, reaching its $14 million goal in just 18 months. He explained how they received many of the special aspects of the church’s design. The large marble reredos (high altar), main altar, four-foot high statues of the Stations of the Cross, the 12 stained glass windows and other statues — including one of St. Clare of Assisi — were purchased from the now-closed motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Pittsburgh. 

“Our earlier budget did not allow for stained glass windows,” Father West said. “We later learned of the closing of the motherhouse. We needed 12 windows and they had 12 windows. Their windows fit our design by just inches. One of the windows depicts St. Clare of Assisi. Some would label this as a coincidence, but we see it as divine providence. Based on the life of St. Clare and her courageous contributions to the Catholic Church in the 13th century, our parish has created the slogan: ‘Whatever Clare wants, Clare gets.’ We know she is a powerful intercessor.”

Father West said that while the buildings will allow the parish community to have a home church, he feels they have been thriving for years.

“Visitors are amazed by how many children and teens they see at Mass and how vibrantly our congregation sings,” the pastor said. “We are frequently complimented for being a welcoming community. One of our most successful ministries is the St. Vincent de Paul Society, [composed] of about 70 parishioners who have been very engaged with economically disadvantaged neighbors in Cainhoy. 

“To date, our parish has contributed over $1 million in donations and services to repair homes, assist with utilities and rent, bills and more,” he added. “Further, our parish is one of the largest donors in the metro area to East Cooper Community Outreach, which is a food pantry and services organization. We are a parish community that willingly and generously shares its blessings with others so to bring them blessings.”

The new church was dedicated on April 22.

Learn more about St. Clare of Assisi Church at

Theresa Stratford is a freelance writer for The Miscellany. She lives in Charleston with her husband and three children and attends the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Email her at