BLYTHEWOOD — Members of Transfiguration Church in Blythewood had a good reason to celebrate on Sept. 20, and celebrate they did; first with an outdoor Mass, then with a groundbreaking ceremony for the faith community’s future multipurpose parish life center.
Before the actual ground- breaking, parish administrator Father Arul Joseph Rayappan blessed the ground and the spectators with holy water. Then, wearing his personalized hard hat, Father Rayappan grabbed a shovel. He was joined by a large number of people, and together they moved some dirt aside for the new building’s foundation.
The parishioners and friends gathered afterward for a parish picnic to commemorate this happy occasion for their growing community. The mayor of Blythewood, Roland Ballew, attended the festivities as well as Mike Gocsik, secretary of stewardship and mission advancement for the Diocese of Charleston, who each recognized the significance of the day.
The 7,000-square-foot building will be located on the parish’s 17 acres of land, adjacent to a large tract owned by the diocese. It is within walking distance of the parish chapel and rectory. The master plan for the parish property includes a church building, but in the meantime, the parish center will provide a worship area that is designed to hold approximately 400 people. One of the larger areas found in the new building plan is a hospitality room where people can meet after Mass and connect as a parish family, something parishioners currently do in the parking lot of the school.
According to Joe Gawronski, building committee chairman, the first phase of the project will be the parish center, which will cost approximately $900,000. They hope to see the “roof on” by February 2004 and the job completed by the summer.
It was an exciting day for the five-year-old congregation that had been going to Blythewood Elementary School for Sunday Mass for more than four years. It did not take much time for the parish to outgrow the small chapel they had been using and still use for small gatherings.
“Everyone has a role at the parish,” said Gawronski. “It is a participatory church, and everyone feels like they are needed.”
He has seen how the community has grown from the earlier days when all the parishioners could attend Mass in the living room of School Sisters of Notre Dame Sister Clare Reinert’s home.
“I have been with the parish since it formed, and it will be much better to have Mass in our new building than at the school,” said tenth-grader Allison Buchanan.
Buchanan said that the best thing the youth can do right now for their parish is to keep coming to church.
Sandy Downes and Maureen Pudans from St. Theresa in Winnsboro accepted Father Rayappan’s invitation to attend the groundbreaking at their sister parish. “We share Father Joseph with Transfiguration, and we support his work at both churches,” said Downes.
She said she feels fortunate to have a pastor who doesn’t just preach but “lives the Gospel.”
Frank and Carol Dyar have been parishioners for almost five years and feel privileged to be a part of another building campaign.
“We have helped build four churches for the diocese, and Transfiguration will be our fifth,” said Mrs. Dyar, who believes she and her husband were destined to be a part of these important projects. She is from a small town in Germany and grew up having a church within walking distance. She values the sense of community that exists at this parish.
“Transfiguration is a wonderful community,” said Father Rayappan. “Everyone is so willing to serve. When we need the grass mowed, someone comes and mows it.”
He then said to his parishioners: “This day would not have been possible without you.”