By JOEY REISTROFFER
SIMPSONVILLE — God has a new home in this Upstate community that is bursting at the seams. He now resides at 2252 Woodruff Road.
That is where parishioners at St. Mary Magdalene built a new church. Their parish is growing at a tremendous pace and quarters had become cramped. Father Herbert Connor realized that something had to be done and set out a mission to erect a new dwelling for his flock. Mission accomplished.
Bishop David B. Thompson put the final touch on the church by consecrating it and anointing the altar during a dedication ceremony last week.
Bishop Thompson had been here seven years before to dedicate another church for the folks at St. Mary Magdalene and now he could see the fruits of that effort blossoming.
“It’s wonderful to be back at St. Mary Magdalene for the newest version of your church,” the bishop told the people. “It’s the second one of your churches I have dedicated in my eight-year incumbency.”
A sculptured relief hung behind the altar depicting Mary Magdalene washing the feet of Jesus.
“The sculpture was Father Connor’s idea,” said architect Heather Mitchell. “He envisioned that, so we worked with the artists (to make it fit with the design of the church.)”
Mitchell said the mission to build a new church was a challenge, but “I’d do it again,” because everyone worked well together. “There was a lot of teamwork,” she said.
Indeed, construction workers broke ground on the project in April 1997, and the parish held its first service there on Easter Sunday.
Father Anthony Droze, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Greenville, remember back to the mid-’80s when the Simpsonville congregation was only 20 families strong and branching off from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Mauldin.
“They didn’t even have their own church then,” Father Droze said.
The community grew to 170 families and in 1991 they built their own place to worship the Lord.
Now the Simpsonville faithful, with 1,050 families, has outgrown that home and is moving into a new church.
“He’s a builder,” Father Droze said of his fellow priest, Father Connor.
And Bishop Thompson agreed.
“You’ve done a wonderful thing,” the bishop told Father Connor and the parish. He said God has always wanted a place where his people can go for sacrifice, for prayer and for worship. “We need to congregate. We need to come together … to seek almighty God’s guidance and support. We need a place to gather to celebrate the great mysteries of our faith. This is a holy place,” the bishop said.
He then anointed and incensed the altar.
“Remind yourself that this altar represents the Body of Christ,” Bishop Thompson told the people. “Without the altar, there is no church.”
And it is only through the Body of Christ that we reach salvation, he said. The altar is the center of the church. The building is impressive, but the altar feeds the soul.
The bishop said the material part of St. Mary Magdalene — the bricks, the granite, the woodwork — “they will never save you. But they will help you reach your salvation” by bringing you to the altar and the body of blood of Jesus Christ.