JOHNS ISLAND — Turning over shovels of dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony at Holy Spirit Church revealed more than earth: it showed the diversity of a congregation.
The group who joined Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone and Msgr. Charles H. Rowland, the pastor, in the Sept. 27 ceremony came from Johns, Kiawah, Seabrook and Wadmalaw islands.
The parish is building a new life center to house a fellowship hall, an office, meeting rooms and storage space.
What happens within the walls will be the unity of an island that has a multi-ethnic populous and runs the gamut in extreme diversity between wealth and poverty.
“We envision it being of service not only to our worshiping community, who have been most generous in their support, but also to meet the needs of the various groups on the islands,” Msgr. Rowland said.
The $996,000 project should be complete within the next year, he added. It has been funded by donor pledges.
The next project will be a rectory and the pastor said land has been reserved for a future school. Children from Holy Spirit currently attend Nativity School on James Island.
As membership grows, Msgr. Rowland said their outreach to people in need will also expand.
“Our deepest concern is to help those in need, most especially spiritually and physically,” he said. “On two of our islands, 23 percent of people are living below the poverty level. As the Good News has taught us, we have to feed and clothe the body first.”
The islands have a substantial Hispanic population, and Msgr. Rowland estimates they have anywhere from 200 to 300 Spanish-speaking families who come to Holy Spirit. Father José Gabriel Rodriguez Cruz, the parochial vicar, was assigned to the parish in 2007 and now celebrates Mass in Spanish each Sunday.
Holy Spirit Church was built with parishioner support in 2005 at the 3871 Betsy Kerrison Parkway location under the direction of Father James Parker, now retired. It seats 1,000 people. The previous church had room for only 250.
The busy parish also completed a columbarium recently, which Bishop Guglielmone blessed.
The new center was designed by Dennis Ashley of DA Architects and the project manager and engineer is Charles Brightwell of IP Builders Inc. Msgr. Rowland chaired the building committee, which included Steve Sager, Virginia Termine, Eugene and Mary Anne Witchger, and Joseph Stocker.