St. Joseph Church shows faith in its future with renovation

St. Joseph Catholic Church, Columbia, Father Richard Harris

St. Joseph Catholic Church, Columbia, Father Richard HarrisCOLUMBIA—When people walked through the doors of St. Joseph Church for Mass on the first weekend in October, they had a lot of surprises in store.

The church, which was built in 1948, went through a massive renovation during the summer months. Masses and other church celebrations were held in the parish gymnasium while workers replaced the original wiring, cleaned and repaired stained glass windows, painted, and added new woodwork, among many other changes. The project was completed in late September.

The renovation was part of the parish’s $3 million “Pride in Our Past, Faith in Our Future” capital campaign, according to Father Richard Harris, pastor.

“This arose mainly from the need of maintenance in general at the church,” he said. “We did a study of the needs and came up with a game plan. We wanted people to see their donations being invested in the church.”

Father Harris worked with renovation and construction committees to devise a plan for the project. He said the entire process took about a year.

Columbia-based Tyler Construction handled the renovation work, and The Boudreaux Group of Columbia were the interior designers.

Father Harris said the renovation included new lighting throughout the church and a new sound system because, over the years, people had complained they couldn’t hear properly, especially from the back of the church. New speakers, microphones and listening devices for the hearing impaired were added. Automatic doors to assist those with special needs were also installed on the sides of the church.

The choir benefited from the renovation too. A new Allen electronic organ now accompanies them because the previous Moeller pipe organ was damaged. The choir loft also has new speakers, floors and lighting.

Father Harris said one of the goals was to create a warmer feel to the Gothic design of St. Joseph’s interior.


Walls in the church were painted in a selection of beige-toned colors. A cream color was also carried over into the sacristies, cry room, adjacent parish house and adoration chapel. Decorative wood was added in places, plus faux wood painting on side beams and columns.

“I think we really accented the beautiful architecture of St. Joseph, and we also had other beautiful features in the church we were able to play up,” said Cece Zimmerman, a parishioner who served on the renovation committee.

Father Harris and members of the committee are especially proud of the new tabernacle on the main altar, which is where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. It was paid for from memorials people had made for general use in the church. The tabernacle was custom-designed by Granda, a company in Madrid, Spain. Father Harris worked with them when he supervised the building of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Greenwood, which was dedicated in 2004.

The new tabernacle is gold-plated and features a figure of St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus on the front.

The old tabernacle was relocated to the back of the church and now holds the sacred oils used during baptisms and other sacraments.

Extensive work was also done on the church’s marble raredos, which is the decorative screen behind the altar. The marble was cleaned, as were the dramatic wooden crucifix and side statues. New lighting was added and a new curtain was placed behind the crucifix.

“Overall, each step we took was exciting,” said Mary Kay Rushman, pastor’s assistant and a member of the renovation committee. “This was important to me because I’ve been a member here all my life. Father Harris wanted this all to be done with a great reverence, and the result of what we did is just a feeling of great beauty. It’s very serene.”