BATESBURG-LEESVILLE—An exciting new era began at St. John of the Cross Church on March 18 with the blessing of the new parish life building.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass and blessed the new structure, along with its new altar, which will be used during the celebration of Mass.
Father Jose Rodolfo Lache-Avila, administrator of St. John of the Cross, and Redemptorist Father Peter Sousa, pastor at Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia, concelebrated.
The 12,600-square-foot building cost $1 million to construct and was designed by Craig A. Otto Architects Inc. of Lexington. Pizzuti Builders Inc. of Lexington handled the construction.
It will be named the Kelly Hall Parish Life Center in honor of the late Arthur Kelly, a longtime member who left a bequest to the parish in his will that provided most of the funding for the new structure.
More than 750 people crowded inside for the Mass and blessing, a group that showcased the diversity of St. John of the Cross, which has 210 households on the rosters but also draws a large Hispanic community from the surrounding areas.
Craig Otto, the primary architect, and Nick Pizzuti of Pizzuti Builders were both present for the event. They handed Bishop Guglielmone a copy of the building plans at the beginning of Mass.
Bishop Guglielmone walked around the entire interior to bless it with holy water and pray for the faithful who will benefit from the new facility. He anointed and censed the pristine wooden altar. Afterward, members of the parish dressed the altar with its cloth, and Father Lache-Avila lit the candles.
During his homily, Bishop Guglielmone reflected on the big difference the new facility will make for the parish. He recalled how, the first time he visited for confirmation in the church, so many people showed up that about 75 percent of them ended up standing outside.
“The next confirmation will be here, in your own place,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “Holy Week and Easter are coming up and you will be able to celebrate them here, to fit everyone inside. This will be a place where young people will learn of their faith, and the faith of countless people will be nourished.”
He recalled how Jesus prepared for the suffering he would encounter through prayer and by drawing into a closer relationship with the disciples who followed him. He urged members of the parish to deal with the fears and troubles of daily life by coming together frequently for prayer and fellowship.
“This place will give the people who come to it blessings and strength,” he said. “This building is beautiful, but the most beautiful part is you — the people who will be here to pray, to hear and study God’s word and to celebrate your lives together.”
Regina Elders, chair of the parish building committee, said the project has been in the works for over a year. Kelly Hall is an answer to many prayers as the number of people attending Mass, classes and other parish activities has grown immensely in recent years.
The church only has seating for about 100 people, so events such as the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration, first Communion, and confirmations have been held at the nearby Batesburg-Leesville Leisure Center to accommodate large crowds.
Elders said the building will be used for Mass, some religious education activities and large parish events. Mass will also continue to be celebrated in the original church building.
The new altar will be kept in an area closed off from the rest of the space and opened up for Mass.
“I was very excited about the dedication because it was a long time coming,” Elders said. “I was just so proud to see all of the parishioners there and that we were at standing room only capacity. It was a surreal moment to realize it was finally done.”
Top photo, Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss: Father Jose Rodolfo Lache-Avila, administrator of St. John of the Cross, stands at the new altar during Mass.