Divine Redeemer celebrates 50 years

HANAHAN — A parish whose founding members attended Mass at a paper mill celebrated its 50th anniversary with worship, laughter and prayer on July 18.

More than 400 people gathered at Divine Redeemer Church for a special golden anniversary Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert J. Baker. The crowd included many original members of the parish, newer members and their families, Divine Redeemer School students and parents, and Hanahan town officials.

“The divine presence has kept this parish going,” Bishop Baker said. “We’re celebrating 50 years of bringing God’s love to the people of Hanahan.”

Bishop Baker spoke of the “wisdom, faith and energy that led to the founding of this great parish,” and compared the spirit of faith that existed in the parish to the spirit Mary showed during her visit to Elizabeth as recorded in Luke 1:39-55, which was the evening’s Gospel reading.

He also praised the church’s founding pastor, Father Jerome Powers, who was unable to come to the celebration.

“Your founding pastor, Father Jerome Powers, continues to thank God for the many years of his priesthood,” the bishop said. “And we thank the Lord for his wisdom and energy that led to the founding of this great parish … ”

Bishop Baker also referred to the preparations made for the day and to Mary’s Magnificat. He described that prayer as the beautiful anthem of Mary which reflects her appreciation for God’s choosing her to be a unique and special instrument of his saving plan of salvation.

“Mary’s gratitude to God and her ‘yes’ to him provided the framework for the many blessings you and I celebrate today. She was the great steward of the mysteries of God that took human form in her womb when she offered her life in service to the plan of God.”

He also complimented the members of Divine Redeemer for their stewardship.

“Divine Redeemer Parish is a parish of stewards, of ambassadors of the presence of Jesus,” he said. “And this parish has been fostering stewardship and promoting the birth of stewards for the past 50 years. Stewards are people who represent the life of Jesus made present through our church. Stewards are the people whose spiritual lives are born of the sacraments of the church. There is a close connection between the sacramental life and the life of a steward. The sacraments give us the staying power behind our spiritual lives, behind our lives as stewards of the kingdom of God.”

After the Mass, there was a reception in the church hall that included a video presentation depicting the history of the church.

Another celebration of the 50th anniversary will be held after the school year begins.

“It’s amazing what we started with and what we have now … this has just been wonderful to experience,” said Rose Siddall, who attended the celebration with her husband Larry. The couple’s history in the parish goes back to its beginnings, because their parents were all founding members. The Siddalls were also married at Divine Redeemer.

The first Mass at Divine Redeemer Parish was celebrated June 17, 1956, in the athletic hall of the paper mill in Hanahan, the location for worship in the parish until Feb. 23, 1958. On that date, the first Mass in the new church building at the corner of Murray and Fort Drives was celebrated by Father Powers. Bishop Baker noted during his homily that the first church was built for $55,000, an amount that would only cover part of a church building these days.

Divine Redeemer School was established in 1960, and in 1964 a convent was built to house the women religious from various orders who served the church and school over the years.

Divine Redeemer faced difficult times after Hurricane Hugo ravaged the South Carolina coast in September, 1989. The church was destroyed by the storm, and for months afterward Mass was celebrated outside in a tent.

A newly renovated church was built and dedicated in 1991.

Over the years, Divine Redeemer served many families from the Charleston Naval Base before it closed in the early ’90s.

In 2006, Divine Redeemer serves more than 350 households in the Hanahan area. Membership ranges from retired couples to young families, and includes an active Filipino community. The parish offers several outreach programs for the Hanahan area, including a very active St. Vincent de Paul Society that works to help the needy.

During the celebration, current parishioners talked about the memories the church holds for them, as well as the things that make Divine Redeemer a special place to worship.

Carolyn Passerello said that both of her daughters were confirmed at the church and her husband is active on the church’s finance committee.

“We’re a growing parish that does a lot of good work for the community,” she said. “I thought everything about the celebration was wonderful.”

“I never expected to have anything like this,” said founding member Charles Zychalski, who attended with his wife, Norma. “It’s wonderful to see all these people here to celebrate the anniversary.”

During the Mass and the reception, the church’s current pastor, Father Edward W. Fitzgerald, received rounds of applause from the parishioners. Father Fitzgerald came to Divine Redeemer in late 2002 to serve as pastor.

“I hope in the coming years we see a continuation of the people here living their faith and bringing God’s love to the community,” Father Fitzgerald said. “People here are dedicated to bringing their faith to others, to praying and to attending Mass. This is a praying parish.”

Father Fitzgerald also said he is proud of the generosity of Divine Redeemer’s parishioners and how willing they are to contribute, both financially and with volunteer work, to improvements and activities around the parish.

“They are generous people,” he said. “They’re willing to give back to God what God has given to them, and blessed them.”