By DEIRDRE C. MAYS
BEASLEY — St. Luke’s Catholic Mission began a new level of growth July 11, a shovel full of dirt at a time. Former pastors and parishioners gathered at their new building site on Highway 86 with Father Frank Travis, pastor of Holy Cross in Pickens and the mission and, for a groundbreaking ceremony and a glance at faith to come.
The new building will be a multi-purpose facility that will be used for worship, religious education and social functions of the parish. Later on, when the necessary funds are raised for a larger church, it will become the parish hall.
St. Luke’s has experienced exponential growth over the last five years — from 50 families to 217 families. Annette McClellan, parish secretary for the church and mission, describes those numbers as amazing.
“Our growth is phenomenal,” she said. “Even when we should have lost people when one of the major corporations in the area moved out, we continued to grow.”
Parishioners Karen and Gary Brons describe St. Luke as a young parish.
“We have as many kids as adults with a mix of people who have grown up here and people who have transferred here with their jobs,” she explained. Her husband added: “With all the kids, it brings the parents together, we had no trouble meeting people right away when we came.”
The parish was formed in 1994 as a mission of Holy Cross Church in Pickens with the congregation meeting in the old Bethesda United Methodist Church building. Msgr. Charles J. Baum dedicated the mission on the Feast of the Epiphany. In February 1994, Father Francis J. Travis was assigned as pastor of Holy Cross Church and the mission church in Powdersville, later named Church of St. Luke by Bishop David B. Thompson.
Browning Architects Inc. designed the building and Durham-Greene Inc. is the general contractor.
Stokes Browning said the temporary church will hold 250 people and will be designed in a contemporary style but will reflect traditional Roman Catholic form with arched openings and cathedral style vaulted ceilings.
“The design of the church calls into force your entire relationship with the church,” he said.
He estimates that it will take 270 days to complete this phase. The permanent sanctuary will later be built in front of the current construction.
Bryan Kelly and Gene Iozzino are the building committee co-chairs. Kelly said the committee was formed in 1995. They decided on 8.9 acres of land with easy entrance and exit access that was centrally located.
“Most of the building for Powdersville is taking place around here,” he continued. “This is a (bedroom community) for Greenville.”
The site was cleared a week before the groundbreaking. The parish will use the building for five to seven years before the main church is ready for construction. They hope to some day be able to seat 1,200 to 1,500 people.
The cost for the first phase of the project is $1.1 million and Kelly said they have raised $560,000.
“So few families trying to raise $1 million is not that easy,” he commented.
Father Travis has faith in the community, however.
“We have a young parish and a new parish with a lot of energy,” he said. “We have really supportive laity and strong committees. They have really had to take charge. I think the new church will turn out to be like Mary Magdalene. They built a building and had to move out in seven years because they outgrew it.”
Msgr. Baum, now retired and living in Greenville, attended the ceremony and turned over the official shovel full of earth to mark the beginning of the new era for St. Luke’s. He was accompanied in his support by Father C. Thomas Miles, whose home parish is Pickens, and Father Howard Coughlin of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Mauldin.