A small mission enjoys tremendous unity

LAURENS—Over the past 50 years, the people of Holy Spirit Mission have learned the true meaning of the word community.

On Aug. 18, that community came together to celebrate their 50th anniversary with laughter, song and prayer in English and Spanish.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated the Mass. In his homily he said the mission’s name of Holy Spirit is appropriate because “the Holy Spirit lives in people as they spread the message of the Gospel, and for 50 years this community has been going out and proclaiming the goodness of God here in Laurens.”

Laurens County has never had a large Catholic community. In the 1900s, the faithful were served by traveling bishops and priests who celebrated Mass in courthouses and family homes.

Catholics from the north moved to Laurens in the late 1950s to work in a local shirt factory, and Father E. Gerald Ernst spearheaded an effort to build the town its own church.

Bishop Paul J. Hallinan purchased three acres of land once used as a cotton field in 1961, and construction began. Father Ernst celebrated the first Mass at the church on Aug. 4, 1963, and Bishop Francis F. Reh officially dedicated it on Aug. 18.

Today Holy Spirit is considered a mission of St. Boniface. Father Noel Tria, the administrator, travels each weekend to celebrate Mass at both churches, plus St. Mark in Newberry.

The close-knit community has about 99 households and is a multicultural blend where Sunday Mass and other activities are bilingual.

Joan Makocy and her late husband Zoltan moved from New Jersey in 1971 and immediately joined Holy Spirit. Mrs. Makocy said the warm, welcoming group of people offered something different than what she was used to.

“Up north, the church for me was just a place to go, pray and leave,” she said. “Here, it’s different. I have so much faith in this church, and it means so much to me. These people are my family. It’s always been such a close church. Everyone is connected.”

Ken Kysavy, who came from Minnesota in 1981, and Jerry Zajaczek, a long-time member, gave a presentation about the mission’s history during a dinner at Lakeside Country Club. They went through the long list of priests who have served there and talked about the events that members have enjoyed, including camping trips, festivals, and church-league softball teams. They also described how the small community joins together on tasks, such as painting the interior of the church.

“It’s a very close-knit, caring community,” Kysavy said. “We work hard, pray hard, and have a good time together, and we just seem to carry on because we have such good people here.”

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