By PAUL A. BARRA
JAMES ISLAND — Nearly 40 years after the parish was established and 12 years after its church was built, the faith community of the Church of the Nativity celebrated the dedication of its worship space. The Jan. 24 dedication ceremony was performed by the bishop of Charleston.
Bishop David B. Thompson cautioned the huge crowd at Nativity that St. Paul said: we are the Church. Nevertheless, God wants church buildings and the Catholic Church deems them so important that only a bishop can dedicate one.
“We have churches because God wills it, in the Old Testament and in the New Testament,” the bishop said. “This is where we meet God and where God meets us.”
All the former pastors of Nativity concelebrated with Bishop Thompson, except for Msgr. John A. Simonin, who was recovering from a heart attack. The other former pastors are Father Theodore T. Cilwick, Msgr. Robert J. Kelly and Father Joseph G. Maher. Father Henry T. Barron, the current pastor, and four other priests also participated in the distinguished ceremony.
“It was beautiful and worth waiting for,” said Jack Kennerty, a 16-year parishioner. Kennerty and other fourth-degree Knights of Columbus added their own brand of pageantry to the event.
Terry Harris waited four years longer than Kennerty, but she was just as pleased with the dedication. Lila Murphy, who turned 90 the day after the dedication, said that the parish was blessed with “good pastors.” It was also blessed on Jan. 24 with good music and beauty.
The Nativity choir sang, along with the parish’s children’s choir and its Contemporary Ensemble. The voices were supplemented by a trumpet, guitars and a harp. Flowers and ferns decorated the big church.
After the 70-minute Mass and ceremony, parishioners and guests dined at a special reception in the parish hall. James L. “Jimmy” Craven, an original parishioner, told the history of the parish. He called the parish a family as well as a faith community.
“Today we accept the challenge to go forth and be a force of Christ in the James Island community,” Craven said.
Father Cilwick lived in what is now the teacher’s lounge of Nativity School, which the parish built before the church building, according to Craven. Less than four years after the church construction was finally finished, with Father Maher as pastor, Hurricane Hugo ripped off the copper cupola and caused $150,000 in damage.
But all was right in 1998. The church is whole and dedicated. The people are happy.