By JORDAN MCMORROUGH
AIKEN — The blessing and sprinkling of holy water by Bishop David B. Thompson last Sunday at the St. Angela Parish Life Center for St. Mary Help of Christians Church was the culminating event in a years-long process for the Midlands faithful.
In his homily during the introductory rite, Bishop Thompson told of a time in Pennsylvania when a monsignor blessed a rectory and in sprinkling the building with holy water “messed up every wall in the house.”
“I’m glad this building is made of cinderblock,” the Bishop joked to laughter from the wall-to-wall audience.
He said that, although the building was being blessed, it is primarily the people that are blessed, in that the building is for them.
“This is in thanksgiving to you for all you have done,” the Bishop said. “I congratulate all of you.”
The Bishop talked about the spiritual dimension of the new hall, with its two prominent stained-glass windows formerly from the sacristy, and the environment these windows would create for the Masses that will periodically be offered in the building.
The many uses for the new center were then touched upon by Bishop Thompson; it will function as a parish hall, social hall and athletic hall.
“It will be a gathering place for the people of God, the congregation of the Body of Christ,” he said.
The sacrifice of parishioners in raising needed funds for construction was highlighted by the Charleston ordinary. “It took a lot of sacrifice, and many tough decisions had to be made by Msgr. (Thomas) Evatt (St. Mary Help of Christians pastor) and Dr. (John) Veldman (the chairman of the building committee).”
The Bishop relayed a saying about making difficult choices from his former diocesan attorney when he was vicar general in Allentown, Pa.: “When you have to swallow a bullfrog, don’t look at it too long.”
To illustrate the sacrifices that needed to be made for stewardship, Bishop Thompson related the tale of a little girl who was given a quarter by her father to put in a collection basket during Lent. The father stressed to his daughter the importance of sacrifice of what little money she had. The girl then told her parent that she would indeed put her money in the basket, but she asked him for a $10 bill from his wallet to wrap around her quarter for the collection.
“What a glorious crown you have sacrificed for at this particular parish,” said the Bishop.
Msgr. Evatt called the center “the work of the parish. Look what we’ve accomplished, from planning to executing to finishing, it took everyone to do that.”
The pastor said “I had to be guided in many ways” regarding the project, in that he had never before done a capital funds campaign, and he extended special thanks to Bishop Thompson and Veldman.
In his remarks, Veldman praised “each and every one of you who believed in the dream. It illustrates the power of faith in the Christian community.”
He went on to recognize those “who made a strong foundation for the building,” listing numerous individuals for work on design review, kitchen, stained glass, stewardship, plumbing and heating, landscaping and others. The head of the over $2 million building project joked that “martyrdom was a real possibility” at times for some committee members.
Veldman highlighted the work of The Boudreaux Group of Columbia, architects on the project, singling out John Boudreaux and his design team, especially project leader and Aiken native Scott Garvin, for their willingness to interact with the parish on changes in the building. Also noted was the contractor, Two States Construction Company of Thompson, Ga. Father Jerome Schwab was thanked for his role as advocate for the project on the Diocesan Building Commission.
Lastly, Walter Schumacher was praised for his work in the “rocky vineyards of fund raising.” Veldman stressed that it is “difficult to ask for money multiple times over many years,” and that Schumacher pursued a variety of fund-raising approaches, including home visitations and phone solicitations. More than 800 families contributed money to the building of the St. Angela Parish Life Center, representing over 80 percent of the families at St. Mary Help of Christians.