CLEMSON—Three churches in Pickens and Oconee counties have together launched a $2 million capital campaign to purchase land for a new church in Clemson and make repairs and improvements on those in Seneca and Walhalla.
More than 100 members of the three parishes — St. Andrew Church in Clemson, St. Francis Mission in Walhalla, and St. Paul the Apostle Mission in Seneca — gathered at St. Paul recently to look at the plan.
“This is an exciting time and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the future of our parish,” said Sheila Hogan, a longtime member of St. Andrew.
The campaign, called “Growing Together in Faith,” calls for allocating $1.4 million of the $2 million that is raised to buy a minimum of 20 acres of land within the city of Clemson.
Father C. Alexander McDonald, pastor, said St. Andrew has been outdated for the past several years. Worship space has become so limited that the church was forced to seat overflow Mass participants in the basement, where they watched via closed-circuit video.
The church also had to add a second Sunday Mass due to overflow, Father McDonald said. Space for religious education is limited. They hold classes at a Baptist church next door.
Parking and more adequate space for the church’s campus ministry are other issues, he added.
At St. Paul, around $450,000 will be used to rework the current parking lot by adding more handicapped spaces and improving traffic flow. Devotional art will be added to the building interior and some of the funds will help replace the roof.
Finally, at St. Francis, around $50,000 will be spent on upgrading the building’s restrooms and classrooms.
Father McDonald said the campaign needs to raise roughly half of the $1.4 million needed for St. Andrew. That would open the way for the diocese to lend the balance. He said the parish has identified and prioritized a number of potential sites for the new Clemson church.
A key component in the St. Andrew project, in addition to the land purchase, is the work to improve facilities for campus ministry, he said.
“St. Andrew needs to be a viable parish in the future, and campus ministry drives that more than anything by serving as an outreach to young Catholics” now at Clemson, Southern Wesleyan University and Tri-County Technical College, he said.
In the current Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone made campus ministry a priority in the diocese, Father McDonald said.
“We need a vibrant parish here in Clemson to support that effort,” he said.
Campus ministry would remain at the current site in Clemson, which is within walking distance of the university. Plans are to renovate one of the existing buildings for campus ministry once the parish is completed.
Father McDonald said the parish will also maintain ownership of the St. Andrew Church Chapel, which was built in the 1930s for Catholic cadets at what was then Clemson College. It will continue to serve as a sacred place for daily Mass, baptisms, weddings and funerals.
He said the parish hopes to buy the land for St. Andrew within the next two years. The parish needs to move fairly quickly on the land purchase to take advantage of lower real estate costs and because of the limited amount of suitable sites within the Clemson city limit.
However, the scarcity of land combined with the current slump in the real estate market may work to the parish’s advantage.
“There are very few tracts of land available in the city and the current economic situation has shaken some of those properties loose from developers,” Father McDonald said.
He would like to have a contract in hand on one of the five properties currently under consideration by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Hogan said she’s encouraged by recent Catholic fundraising efforts in the Upstate, specifically raising thousands of dollars in a very short time to aid victims in Haiti, and what that may mean for the parish capital campaign.
“What makes me feel hopeful is that our Catholic community has shown that when we believe in something, we can do it,” she said.