MCCORMICK — For the last 45 years, members of the Good Shepherd Catholic community have attended Mass and other religious services in what might be considered a secondhand church from a parish 30 miles away in Greenwood.
But that will change in 2009 when a new church opens its doors to welcome the 155 families who comprise the parish.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Dec. 7, signaling the start of construction of a new church on a site less than 200 yards from the existing building. Father Allam Marreddy, Good Shepherd administrator, led the ceremony which included Charles Jennings, county council chairman; John Philcox, vice chairman; Roy Smith, McCormick mayor; and members of the parish.
In an interview with The Miscellany, Father Marreddy said construction of the new church would not have been possible without the generosity of parishioners, visitors and friends, who donated more than $570,000 to a capital campaign begun in October 2006 that exceeded its goal by $70,000.
“Because of their financial support our long-held dream of a new church will soon become a reality,” Father Marreddy said.
This will be the first Catholic church built in the county even though the faith can be traced back to the arrival of Irish immigrants in the late 1880s. Records indicate that, at the turn of the century, the number of families grew to about 40. They attended religious services in each other’s homes or in Catholic churches elsewhere in the region.
In 1964, Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Greenwood built a new, larger church.
Moving the old church was a pain s taking project that took several days and involved uprooting it, towing it over miles of back roads to McCormick County and placing it on the current site.
Along the route workers had to temporarily relocate utility lines extending over roadways to allow for the height of the church as it passed.
On March 19, 1964, the church was dedicated as Church of the Good Shepherd.
In the nearly half-century that followed, the parish community grew steadily. Most of the growth has been linked to the nearby development of Savannah Lakes Village, which has attracted nearly 2,000 residents, many of them Catholic retirees from other states.
Less than 100 people can be seated in Good Shepherd Church and as membership grew, overcrowding became a problem. Father Marreddy celebrates three weekend Masses to alleviate crowding, one in the parish life center. He also celebrates Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Abbeville, where he is also administrator
Good Shepherd Church, which was built in 1926, has begun to show its age. That and the need for space prompted Father Marreddy to ask members of the parish building committee and its needs assessment committee to investigate options for updating and enlarging the building. After several months of study, they concluded that it would be very expensive to make necessary repairs and expand the building, and recommended that a new church would be the most cost-effective choice.
Father Marreddy and the pastoral council agreed with the recommendation, and with diocesan approval, the parish kicked off a capital campaign to pay for a new church and furnishings. The building committee worked with an architect for several months before approving a design which was then submitted to the diocese in November for its approval.
The building contract was awarded to Alpine Construction Co. of McCormick whose owners, Mary and Larry Domas, are parishioners. Their firm also built the parish life center.
The new 5,000-square-foot church will seat nearly 300 people. It will contain a larger sacristy, confessionals, a bigger area for the choir and organ, restrooms and storage space. The grounds will be landscaped to include an outdoor Way of the Cross to complement the existing Rosary Garden, a shrine to the Virgin Mary, and recently-installed columbarium.
Construction is expected to take six to 10 months with completion in the summer or fall of 2009, according to Terry O’Reilly, chairman of the building committee.
“When we built the parish life center, the men and women of the parish pitched in to help with painting, flooring, choosing and installing furnishings, preparing lunches for workers, and other tasks,” O’Reilly said.
Men from Lutheran Church by the Lake in McCormick also helped. Members of the Good Shepherd women’s and men’s club and other parishioners have already volunteered to help again.
Once the new building is complete, the building committee has recommended that the old church be converted into a rectory.
Submitted by Dave Lorenzatti of Good Shepherd Church.