ST. HELENA ISLAND – Lowcountry Catholics had double cause for faith-filled celebration at Holy Cross Mission Nov. 22. Bishop Robert J. Baker blessed and rededi-cated the church and accepted Robert Higgins into candidacy for the priesthood.
The bishop accepted Higgins’ intention for priesthood and officially recognized the seminarian as a mature candidate for ordination. Candidacy is one of the steps to the priesthood, which include installation as lector, acolyte, candidacy, ordination as deacon and finally as priest.
It was one of many joyous moments for the congregation in this island mission as it was blessed on the Vigil of the Solemnity of Christ the King.
Flanked by ranks of altar servers and the Fourth Degree Honor Guard of the Knights of Columbus Father Albert Faase Council, the bishop said the combination of the feast day and the celebration was significant.
“Our ceremonies today of blessing and candidacy are opportunities for us, all of us today, to recommit ourselves to serving Jesus Christ our King,” he said, “and to building up his kingdom here on St. Helena Island and throughout the Diocese of Charleston, whatever our vocations, whatever our roles of service.”
The service provided by the mission of Holy Cross began in 1968. Father Henry Burke, pastor of St. Peter Church, and his assistant, Father Edward J. Tuohy, started the “mission station” in a storefront on S.C. Highway 21. It was maintained by parishioners and staffed by the Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine. It was soon moved to a rented gas station on the same road, and Mass was celebrated for a few families from Fripp and Harbor Islands and visitors on vacation. Two years later, Holy Cross moved along the highway again to the “Soul Palace.”
Bishop Ernest Unterkoefler accepted Holy Cross Mission as a joint project of the Diocese of Charleston and St. Peter Church while assuming full responsibility for the outreach ministry, which continues as the Franciscan Center.
The push to build a church started with Father Albert Faase in 1972. Thanks to a $20,000 donation from a family, matching funds from the diocese, St. Peter savings, a grant from the Catholic Extension Society and a loan, the multipurpose building was built in 1978 for $73,500.
By the time Father Ronald R. Cellini became pastor in 1996, Holy Cross had outgrown its 150-person limit. In response to the Synod of Charleston, the church formed a long-range planning committee in 1997. Parishioners began a fund-raising program to build both parish and mission. The result was a revamped mission.
Montgomery Architect and Planning designed the expansion, and Joco Construction built the structure. The mission can accommodate 294 people and will serve as a place of worship, house days of recollection, meetings, youth gatherings, adult education and socials.
Father Cellini thanked all who had contributed to the effort, and particularly his Holy Cross parishioners, whom he credited with the finishing touches and interior artwork.