St. Paul the Apostle Church begins new era

SPARTANBURG—Members of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg have been attending Sunday Mass in their gymnasium for more than a decade because they outgrew their historic 250-seat church years ago.

A new era started for the downtown parish with a ground-breaking on May 2. More than 400 people attended the ceremony led by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone and  Father Timothy M. Gahan, pastor.

The ceremony included prayer and music from St. Paul the Apostle School choir. A  wood cross stood at the spot where the new altar will be.

Bishop Guglielmone said it was an important day becauseit showed how the Catholic faith is flourishing in the Upstate and in South Carolina, and St. Paul’s members were contributing to a building that will likely serve as a beacon of the faith for many generations.

It was also an important milestone in a fundraising and building project spanning more than 20 years, said project manager Joseph Lauer. The new church will cost an estimated $9 million and seat about 850 people.

“I want people to know how committed the parish and folks in Spartanburg have been to the project,” Lauer said in an interview with The Miscellany. “It’s taken a long time, but I believe what we’re building is going to be exquisite. The church is being designed with careful attention to every detail, and it’s designed so it can grow in the future.”

A new St. Paul the Apostle will change the face of downtown Spartanburg, parishioners said, offering a beautiful expression of traditional Catholic architecture that fronts on Main Street.

Lauer said a parish survey indicated a majority of people wanted a traditional look so they chose Indiana-based architect Duncan G. Stroik, considered a specialist in classic Catholic design.

He teaches on the subject at Notre Dame University. Construction is expected to start in about six weeks, and the goal is for it to be complete by late 2013.

People got a whimsical sneak pre–view of the new church thanks to John L. “Jake”  Armstrong IV, a parish member and student at St. Joseph Catholic School in Greenville. He built a Lego model of the proposed design — complete with open roof — which was on display during the ground-breaking.

Earlier in the day he held a contest for people to guess how many Lego blocks he used — the winning number was 1,800.

Catherine Whelchel, a member of the building committee, said the groundbreaking was important to many people who grew up in the parish and raised their children at St. Paul the Apostle.

“It’s a very emotional thing for some of us to finally be at this point and see the fruits of long labor finally becoming a reality,” Welchel said.

The church, which dates to 1883, will remain on the parish property and will probably  be used for special ceremonies, she said.