Diocese breaks ground for new chancery building

chapel and conference center drawing

CHARLESTON—With the push of a shovel, about 130 participants witnessed the historical groundbreaking for the new diocesan pastoral center, which will include a chancery, chapel and conference center.

Situated on five acres of marsh front property draped in grand old Oaks, the upcoming pastoral center will consolidate diocesan departments under one roof for the first time in its almost 200 year history.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, who led the groundbreaking, said the continued growth of the diocese is the reason to invest in the future. The new center will cost about $16.5 million and provide 46,000 square feet of space across the three buildings.

Standing in front of what will be the chapel, the bishop noted that it is “the center of all that we do” and said it will be the first thing people see.

Facing the chapel, to the left will be the conference center and on the right, the chancery.

Bishop Guglielmone said they made the decision to build because the diocese is out of space.

The original chancery dates back to 1866 and was set up in the basement of the bishop’s residence.

In 1957, the diocese purchased the current chancery building and the carriage house behind it, both located across from the bishop’s house on Broad Street. Then, around 1990, they added the structure in West Ashley as a second chancery.

As the diocese continued to grow, more property was purchased in piecemeal fashion, Bishop Guglielmone said. All the buildings need renovations to bring them up to snuff, and even then they would be old and outdated, and the diocese would still need to purchase more office space.

Having everyone under one roof will also foster a common spirit and mission, he said. Currently, many employees only see each other once or twice a year at diocesan events.

The newest technology will also make the building safer — earthquake and hurricane proof — and feature all the latest in social media, such as video conferencing, which will cut down on traveling, the bishop said.

Another plus is plenty of meeting space.

The new Conference Center will hold about 200 people and feature an industrial kitchen to serve large events. Also, the chancery building will have rooms available on each floor for smaller gatherings.

Chancery office drawingPlus, there is extra office space to accommodate future growth.

There is even room to bring the Archives Department over should the necessary funding become available, the bishop said. For now, archives will remain in its current location behind the bishop’s residence because the cost of installing a new climate controlled room for historical documents is prohibitive.

The diocese will also maintain the Drexel House as a residence, but the Office of Vocations will move to the new chancery.

Other properties will be sold and will go a long way toward covering the cost of the pastoral center. In addition, a portion of the chapel will be funded through memorial contributions, said Matt Dwyer, director of stewardship and development.

Bishop Guglielmone said they plan to have gardens and walking paths around the property. Smiling, he suggests that maybe some Eagle Scouts would like to build a Stations of the Cross, or prayer area.

The building will also feature balconies on the second and third floors where people can eat lunch while enjoying the views overlooking the property.

Officials hope construction is completed and employees will be able to move in by Christmas 2014.

“But we’re not in a rush,” the bishop said. “We’ve managed for such a long time in these cramped conditions, a few extra months won’t make a difference.”