Holy Spirit breaks ground for new church building on Johns Island

JOHNS ISLAND — Parishioners of Holy Spirit Church, which serves Johns Island, Kiawah, Seabrook, and Wadmalaw, held a groundbreaking ceremony for their new 1,000 seat sanctuary on Memorial Day.

Bishop Robert J. Baker presided at the ceremony, which drew between 300 and 400 people. The event began with a gathering bell prelude, with music also sung by the Island Choraliers, comprised of men from Seabrook and Kiawah.

G. Joseph Crispyn, chairman of the Building Committee, stated in press information before the event, “The groundbreaking is a start to a project that has been in the planning stages since 1997. The unique aspect is that a congregation of less than 400 households is building one of the largest churches in the Lowcountry and have raised a great deal of the capital for such a large structure. Obviously we don’t need such a large sanctuary for our own needs but we have a moral obligation to provide for the hundreds of tourists who visit the island resorts.”

In a history of Holy Spirit Parish in the ceremony program, it states that on Jan. 22, 1939, Father John McCarthy celebrated the first Mass on Johns Island in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Warren before 18 people.

In May 1939, land was purchased and the following month construction was started on the original church which still stands today. With volunteer efforts, primarily by members of the Knights of Columbus, construction was completed with a total expenditure of $714.

The first Mass in the new church was celebrated on Christmas Day 1939, and Bishop Emmet Walsh dedicated the church on Pentecost Sunday, May 12, 1940.

As various parishes were established West of the Ashley, the mission came under the supervision of first, Blessed Sacrament Parish in 1944 and then Nativity Parish in 1958. This remained unchanged until 1967.

On Sept. 7 of that year, Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler created Holy Spirit as a parish and appointed Father John Simonin in as pastor. The rectory was a rented home at 1 Hay Road.

As the resort islands of Kiawah and Seabrook developed, the number of parishioners took a quantum leap, and the physical facilities of the parish became overextended. In 1978, a new social hall/church and rectory was constructed under the director of Father Pierce O’Connell, pastor, and the buildings were dedicated on June 4.

Today, these facilities house a number of outreach programs to the community. Construction of the new building should take about 18 months.