St. Mary in Rock Hill grows into new church


ROCK HILL — Several hundred St. Mary parishioners and friends gathered for a historic groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 6.

Steady growth in this Midlands parish has resulted in plans for a new building that will seat 475 people. When the newly ordained Oratorian Father Edward Wahl first organized St. Mary in 1946, his focus was to serve five black Catholics who lived in Rock Hill at the time. He had no idea that in almost 60 years, the parish would grow to over 200 culturally diverse families.

Construction should be completed in about a year, according to Sister Francis Saring, a Sister of the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Trinity who is the parish life facilitator.

The existing church will be converted into the St. Martin de Porres Parish Life Center.

Father John Giuliani, provost of The Oratory, and Oratorian Father Edward McDevitt concelebrated Mass before the ceremony.

“We thank God for blessing us once more as we continue our journey in faith to this great day of dedication,” said Oratorian Brother David Boone, who is also parish life facilitator at St. Mary Church.

People who were honored at the event included Sam Reid, the second person to be baptized at St. Mary. The first was his elder brother, Mac, who later served as Sam’s godfather.

William and Rosemary Phillips represented the Phillips family, who were some of the first parishioners at St. Mary Church.

Other special guests included Lester Gaither and Frances Pharr who were invited to turn over a shovel of dirt as part of the ceremony.

The oldest parish members, Mozelle Culp and Charles Grey, participated in the groundbreaking as did two youths of the parish, Kami Luke Cannon and Ja’Quane Page.

Ron Trone, chairman of St. Mary’s capital campaign, and Gwen Finley, stewardship chairwoman, were recognized for their contributions to the building effort and getting the project underway.

“We’re standing on the shoulders of giants today,” Father Giuliani said, “especially Father Ed Wahl who became the pastor of this parish on the day of his ordination, and his brother Oratorians, Father Henry Tevlin and Father Richard Wahl, and all the other priests and religious who have served this parish.”