GARDEN CITY—Robots pitched in to help at the ground-breaking for St. Michael parish’s new church. Members of the six robotics teams at St. Michael School guided machines built from plastic Lego blocks as they shoveled and moved small loads of dirt at the July 24 ceremony.
The students spent more than 40 hours of their summer vacation preparing for the ceremony after their pastor, Father Raymond Carlo, asked them to participate, according to team leader Kyle Myres. “The kids made all of these robots from scratch because they were so excited,” Myres said. “We just feel so blessed and honored to be part of this.”
Hundreds of people turned out for the event, which included a prayer led by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone and Father Carlo. The crowd braved rain to watch them toss the first shovelfuls of dirt on the construction site.
Bishop Guglielmone congratulated the parishioners on a successful five-year fundraising campaign, “A Time for Growth, A Time of Grace,” to build the new church. He reminded them to stay focused on their faith and caring for each other.
“The true church is made up of those you are sitting next to,” he said. “All the other things we seem to think are so important — buildings, vestments, beautiful stained glass — all simply help us come together to realize the presence of the living God in our midst.”
Founded in 1976 as a mission of St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach, St. Michael became a parish in 1979 and originally only served a few hundred families. Today, more than 3,000 households are listed as members, including snowbirds, who live along the Grand Strand during the winter. Building committee members say many of these part-time residents contributed to the building fund. Like other parishes along the coast, St. Michael also serves countless tourists each year.
The parish has raised more than $5 million of the new church’s estimated cost of $6.7 million, Father Carlo said. The effort received a highly publicized donation in late 2009 when Father Andrew Trapp, while serving as parochial vicar, won $100,000 for the building fund on the“PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge” TV game show.
Father Carlo said some remaining funds would be raised through the sale of memorial bricks, paving stones and plaques for pews.
The 22,000-square-foot church, designed by LS3P Neal Prince of Greenville, will seat 1,200 people and include a 2,000-square-foot glass narthex for overflow seating. Construction by Landmark Builders of North Myrtle Beach is expected to start in early August and take about 11 months.
“We’re so delighted to get to this point,” said Harry Downs, a member of the parish building committee. “It’s a very emotional time and a proud moment. My hope is that when this church is built, people who are visiting the area will come to Mass and get a spiritual uplift, and we might even attract more people to the faith.”
At a spirit rally held after Masses July 30-31, parishioners placed stones decorated with their names, prayers and other designs, and broken religious items such as rosaries or statues, into a hole at the building site. The items will be covered and symbolize their faith as the true foundation of the new church.
“The ceremony shows that the church is really built of living stones,” Father Carlo said. “Through this effort, we want to try to build up our parish spirituality along with the building of the new church.”