Bishop dedicates new St. Michael Church in Garden City

GARDEN CITY Years of planning, work and prayer paid off with the official dedication of the new St. Michael the Archangel Church in Garden City on Aug. 17.

The 1,200 seats in the new church building started to fill more than an hour before the Liturgy of Dedication at 5 p.m., and many people sat on folding chairs in the narthex or stood along the sides as the liturgy started.

The atmosphere was both solemn and festive, with longtime parishioners and newer members reflecting on the six-year journey of fundraising and work that led to this moment.

Since opening as a mission in 1976, St. Michael has grown from 40 people at the first Mass to a parish of more than 3,000 households. The new church, designed by LS3P’s Neal Prince Studio in Greenville, is the result of a dedicated building campaign, “A Time for Growth, A Time for Grace” which required the parish to raise more than $5 million of the estimated $6.7 million cost. Construction was done by Landmark Builders of North Myrtle Beach.

Father Raymond J. Carlo, pastor at St. Michael since 2004, concelebrated the dedication Mass with Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone and other visiting priests, including Benedictine Abbott Edmund F. McCaffrey, St. Michael’s first pastor.

The liturgy began with a traditional ceremony in the narthex which included the bishop and Father Carlo opening the locked interior entrance doors.

In a homily that combined humor and reverence, Bishop Guglielmone reflected on the changing demographics of the U.S. church, with many Catholics leaving their former homes in the Northeast and Midwest to move to places like South  Carolina. He pointed out that several stained glass windows in the new church originally came from a church in Philadelphia.

Father Carlo brought other traditional windows, statues and items from closed churches in Ohio, New York and Massachusetts, in an effort, as he said, to mix the “old with the new.”

“Those windows offered comfort and solace to people in another place, but things change and they will continue to offer those same things to people here because of the beauty of this place,” the bishop said, “However, the most powerful beauty of this place is everyone who’s here. The building is passing, but the beauty of the church is the people.”

Bishop Guglielmone mentioned a song, “In This House of Love,” which was written especially for the dedication by Dan  O’Reilly, a member of St. Michael. O’Reilly and his wife Lisa performed the song during a musical prelude to the Mass.

“We hope this church will be filled with love, will be a house of love, a house of hope, and a house of prayer,” he said. “It must be filled with not only God’s love, but the love exchanged between the brothers and sisters who are here. Some come with great happiness, others come with great sadness and pain, but this new church must be a place of love where hope is offered to all.”

Bishop Guglielmone deposited relics of Sts. Pius X, Maria Goretti, John Neumann, Pio of Pietrelcina and Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos within the altar. Also included in a special reliquary were two stones from the shrine of Mont Saint Michel at Normandy, France. According to tradition, St. Michael the Archangel appeared there to St. Aubert in 708.

After the Mass, Father Carlo said building the new church had been long and complicated, but fruitful.

“I enjoyed the process because it’s great to have a chance to be creative, and we were able to be creative with this new church by mixing the old and new together,” he said.

Mary Alice Yopp, a member of the building campaign committee, was relieved and thankful that the church was complete.

“It’s been a challenge,” she said. “I remember when we fi rst started, Father Ray asked if we really thought we could do this, but he was inspired and we all were. I didn’t know that old and new elements could come together so beautifully, but the new church is just magnificent.”