Our Lady of Lourdes dedicated as God’s ‘home on earth’

GREENWOOD – The parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes know the meaning of sacrifice. Through generosity and devotion they helped build a glorious and inspiring new church.

The building was dedicated July 11 in a Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert J. Baker, and it became a sacred place of worship with the consecration. The members of the close-knit parish were also celebrated for their faith.

Bishop Baker lauded the people of Our Lady of Lourdes and their pastor, Father Richard D. Harris, saying they had constructed a wonderful setting for the saving events of their lives.

“You have given God a home on earth,” he said. “You are telling him in faith, hope and love, ‘we welcome you into your home and our home, and in a special way we welcome you in faith, hope and love into our hearts.’”

The plans to move the church from its former location at 110 E. Laurel Avenue began in 1997 when the nearly 700 members were crowding into the main structure and the adjoining multipurpose building.

Bishop David B. Thompson, who concelebrated at the dedication, granted the parish permission to start a capital campaign, but when the campaign ended in 2000 it was short of the goal. Father Harris had been assigned there in 1999 and his new flock already impressed him with their commitment by embracing the theology of stewardship — giving their time, talent and treasure.

They practiced stewardship to reach the $4 million needed to build the church.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place on Feb. 11, 2003, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Work progressed quickly and uneventfully until the steeple made its appearance in Oct. 2003. It was not in proportion to the bell tower, so it had to be replaced.

“I wanted it to be more prominent and dramatic,” Father Harris said.

According to the priest, who participated in the conceptualization, the new church on Mathis Road has a Romanesque design.

“We were trying to reflect aspects of the basilica of Our Lady of Lourdes and still adhere to modern requirements,” Father Harris said.

To meet the exacting standards of Father Harris and his parish building committee, the architects — the Pazdan-Smith Group Inc. of Greenville —studied liturgical and church design. This wasn’t much of a stretch for architect Joe Pazdan and design director Lisa Lanni, both Catholic and members of St. Mary Church in Greenville.

Pains were even taken to calculate the angle of the sunlight entering through the upper clerestory windows during Mass times, so the priest and parishioners would not be distracted from the service by the sun.

Matrix Construction Company of Anderson built the church that is traditional in its design while still adhering to diocesan building guidelines and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document, “Built of Living Stones.”

Father Harris said that the theme of the construction was, “A house that God built.” It is based on Psalm 127: “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor.”

During the dedication, at which he was given a standing ovation for his leadership, Father Harris thanked the people.

Due to the profound faith, dedication and perseverance of only 650 families, you have built an incredible witness to your love and faith in God, so let me be the first to say ‘congratulations,’ ” he said.

One of the most distinctive characteristics of the new Our Lady of Lourdes is its stained glass crucifix behind the altar, another contribution of Father Harris’s designs.

“I knew I wanted a stained glass crucifixion window separating the nave of the church and the chapel so that you could see the face of Christ from both sides,” he said.

What he received was a distinctive glass image of Christ emerging out of a solid mahogany cross which can be viewed from either the chapel behind it or the sanctuary in front of it. It was designed by Rich Buswell of Lynchburg Stained Glass of Lynchburg, Va.

The chapel is dedicated to the Blessed Mother with stained glass windows representing symbols of Mary and Christ.

The rose window in the narthex above the main entrance to the church depicts Mary’s appearance to Saint Bernadette in the grotto at Massabielle in Lourdes, France.

The altar ambo and holy water fonts are some of the items made of marble from Dolfi Statuary and Marble Works in Carrara, Italy. The statues were hand-carved by the Demetz Art Studios in Ortisei, Italy.

Both Italian studios flew the priest over to see the progress, meet the artists, and even go to the quarry in Carrara in the same mountains that provided the marble for Michelangelo’s Pieta and David statues.

Some of the people whom Father Harris thanked for their participation in the dream-to-completion were the finance committee and its chairman Richard Senatore — who “kept finding more money for me” — the parish building committee and its chairman Randy Piontek, and parishioners Dan Biron and Frank Szewczak. Biron and Szewczak were the dedicated on-site project representatives.

“Dan slept in his truck three nights in a row prior to the landscaping,” Father Harris said. “I told the congregation ‘they both were your eyes and always had the best interest of the parish and of future generations in their intent. They gave the proverbial blood, sweat and energy to assuring this was done.’”

Our Lady of Lourdes now seats 700-750 people and can be expanded when the need arises to seat 1200.