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 | By Michele Conner

Our Lady of the Valley celebrates 75 years of faith

Our Lady of the Valley Church will celebrate its 75th anniversary Dec. 22 with a Mass at 9 a.m. The church is located at 2429 Augusta Road in Gloverville. All are invited to celebrate this momentous occasion.

The parish vision statement for these 75 years has been, and continues to be, “Seeking the heart of God — in the heart of the Valley.” 

The earliest history of Catholics in the area begins with a small number of families in the Horse Creek Valley area. Priests from St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken would visit and celebrate Masses in the homes of those families.

Father George Dietz, pastor of St. Mary, took special interest in the people of the Valley. When Msgr. George L. Smith became pastor of St. Mary in 1938, he continued the same concern for the Catholics in the Valley. After careful study, Msgr. Smith invited the Sisters of Christian Doctrine from Nyack, N.Y., to begin a ministry in 1940. The Langley Textile Mill donated land for the building of the Horse Creek Valley Welfare Center, now Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Center run by Catholic Charities. The center was formally dedicated on May 22, 1941, by Most Rev. Emmett M. Walsh, bishop of Charleston. The Sisters of Christian Doctrine served here until 1971.  

Our Lady of the Valley Church was completed, and Bishop Walsh dedicated it on Dec. 22, 1946. The building was designed by Father Michael McInerney, OSB, the priest-architect from Belmont Abbey in North Carolina. The style is early English rural gothic and was constructed of Salisbury granite stone; the interior had a rough texture with an open timbered ceiling. Each stained-glass window symbolizes a virtue of Our Lady. The crucifix, Stations of the Cross, and the statues of Mary and Joseph were hand-carved by Joseph Noe, expert woodcarver. 

In 1949, Msgr. Smith bought a residence near the welfare center and renovated it for use as a rectory in future. He requested then-Bishop John J. Russell to send a resident priest and officially designate Our Lady of the Valley as a church. In June 1952, of Our Lady of the Valley Church was established with Father Myles Morris as pastor. Msgr. Smith continued to direct the Horse Creek Valley Welfare Center as a separate project.  

After the Sisters of Christian Doctrine withdrew in 1971, the Sisters of St. Francis of Our Lady of Lourdes from Rochester, Minn., served at the center until 1976. The Daughters of Charity arrived in August 1977 and served the center until 2017.  At that time, the diocese charged Catholic Charities to continue the work of the Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Center.  

The church has gone through many renovations in the last quarter century. The confessional has been converted into a bathroom to make easy access for parishioners and the safety of children, who no longer have to leave church and walk to the restroom at the center. Among other necessary updates: gravel was added to the parking lot; a new sound system was installed; a new roof, gutters and gutter shields were installed; the entire church and rectory have been repainted, with mold and mildew problems eliminated; an additional light was installed in the parking lot to assist worshippers at evening services; and a new organ and fans were secured through grant funding. Presently, the parish is working on ways to make the building more secure by adding security cameras to the church and office.  

The Catholics of Gloverville are served currently by two Nigerian priests from the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary: Father Emmanuel Ekwelum is the administrator and Father Kentigern Aririguzo is parochial vicar. The parish is slowly increasing in membership, and the community prays that the next 25 years continue to see God’s blessings on the people of Horse Creek Valley to sustain them through to 100 years.