CHAPIN—The dreams and vision of a beloved priest and hundreds of his parishioners were fulfilled on April 17 when Our Lady of the Lake Church in Chapin was dedicated.
Father Andrew Vollkommer, who died unexpectedly on Jan. 27, was the first resident pastor for the parish, taking the reins when it was still a mission of about 60 families. Over nearly 22 years, he served the faithful as their numbers grew to more than 850 households, and he led the effort to build the new church to give people not only more needed space but also a more traditional and beautiful place to worship.
Hundreds of people started lining up outside the new building long before the 3 p.m. Rite of Dedication, led by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone. The bishop received the keys to the church and a copy of the building plans, and then led a procession into the church. The start of the rite and celebratory Mass was delayed for several minutes while the crowd streamed in and filled every possible space. Extra chairs were set up in the narthex, while others packed in along the sides.
The bishop anointed the altar and walls of the church with oil and incensed the altar and the church. Deacons lit candles and parishioners dressed the altar.
In a moving homily, Bishop Guglielmone described the former pastor’s long service at the parish and his dedication to getting the church built. He praised the parishioners who helped make the new building a reality and dedicated countless hours to sharing the message of God with the community.
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“Father Andrew was called home before this day, but he did get to see the building completed, and now he sees this day from another perspective,” the bishop said. “We’re all thankful to him for his dedication, his drive and his ability to make this happen. Now this should become a place where people are Christ to each other and where the kingdom of God becomes real on Earth.”
Bishop Guglielmone and other speakers at the ceremony made a point to mention the eight beautiful stained glass windows that are the centerpiece of the building. They came from the former Monastery of the Dominican Sisters of the Perpetual Rosary in Union City, N.J., which was closed in 2008.
Father Vollkommer was especially proud of the windows, the work of well-known stained glass artist Leo P. Frohe. Scenes include the five joyful mysteries of the rosary and Mary’s coronation in heaven.
The church was designed by LS3P of Greenville and Columbia and built by Mashburn Inc., also of Columbia. The total cost of the project was about $4 million.
The sanctuary seats 650, but warm gray walls, the stained glass windows and the burnished woodwork of pews brought from the old church give an atmosphere that seems smaller and more intimate.
Pat Moore, parish administrator for more than 20 years, said Father Vollkommer had special devotions to St. Anthony and St. Jude, and two statues dedicated to the saints stand at corners of the sanctuary.
A traditional crucifix, hanging from the ceiling over the altar, casts a dramatic silhouette over statues of Mary and Joseph that flank the altar.
Father Vollkommer’s two sisters, Carol Morris and Mary Cutler, traveled from Florida for the dedication and had seats of honor up front.
“I know my brother would be so proud of everybody here, how all their work and commitment played out,” Cutler said. “I know he is in heaven sharing in the dream of this day with everyone.”
Donnie Jameson, director of operations for Our Lady of the Lake, said the actual fundraising and planning took more than 10 years.
“We had some setbacks and we had some changes over the years, and it took a lot of thought, time and planning, but we got it done,” Jameson said. “With Father Andrew’s passing, I was driven to see that his dream would be completed just as he wanted it, and what we have now is more than I could ever have imagined.”
Jon and Mary May are long-time members of the church, and Mr. May served on the building committee for the old church. He remembers when the original 50 or 60 families met for Mass in borrowed spaces, including the local recreation center and a funeral home.
“It was a wonderful experience to watch this parish grow over the years and to see this dedication today,” Mr. May said. “Looking back, you wouldn’t have ever believed we could come from such a modest beginning to this wonderful new building.”
At the end of the celebratory Mass, Bishop Guglielmone announced that the new pastor of Our Lady of the Lake will be Father Dennis Willey, who currently is pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Charleston.
Photos by Christina Lee Knauss/Miscellany