LANCASTER—For eight years, dedicated members of Our Lady of Grace Mission worshipped together in borrowed space at churches and schools, then in a modular building.
They longed for a place to call their own in the rapidly growing community known as Indian Land between Lancaster and Charlotte, N.C.
Their dreams came true Aug. 15 with the official dedication of the mission’s church building on 12 acres of land along Waxhaw Highway.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone welcomed more than 500 people to their new spiritual home with a moving and dignified dedication ceremony and Mass.
After the bishop was presented with copies of the construction plans and the keys to the building, he opened the doors and an excited crowd streamed into the sanctuary of the red brick church.
It was designed by WKWW Architects of Charlotte and construction was done by J.M. Cope Construction Co. of Rock Hill. The cost of the entire project was about $4.5 million.
Our Lady of Grace came about because of a huge influx of people to the Indian Land area beginning in the early 2000s. The growth was fueled mostly by retirees coming from the Northeast and Midwest regions to the nearby Sun City Carolina Lakes complex. Couples and young families also were drawn to the area as nearby Charlotte’s population grew.
According to a published history of the mission, the fledgling community held its first Mass with about 150 people on Feb. 9, 2008, in borrowed space at Belair Methodist Church. Growing crowds forced them to move to Indian Land High School. By September of that year, crowds grew to 400 each week and they moved again to Indian Land Recreation Center.
Also in 2008, an organization called the Pioneer Club started to raise money for a new church, the building committee was formed, and Our Lady of Grace was formally established as a mission. A donor who wishes to remain anonymous gave 12 acres of land and a modular building to be used as worship space.
It later became known as the Mission House and was moved to the current site in 2010. Groundbreaking for the new church was held in 2013, the same year Our Lady of Grace had its first confirmation class of two students. A columbarium was built in 2014.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated the Liturgy of Dedication along with Oratorian Father John P. Giuliani, who served as pastor of Our Lady of Grace, and 11 other visiting priests.
“This is a day of joy, which was a long time in coming,” Bishop Guglielmone said during his homily. “It took time to get the land ready and then it seemed you faced every road block. Now this is a day of rejoicing. This community has been a bright light in this part of the diocese, and this new building will make it easier for you to do the good things God asks of us.”
Father Giuliani said he was proud of the mission’s progress.
“I feel like a dad and now my child is going out on its own after eight years,” he said. “They’ve grown up with this place and are ready to go.”
Dennis Brown, chairman of the building committee, said it took a long time to get the new church completed because of many construction issues, including drainage problems and dealing with regulations related to the nearby railroad.
“We took each obstacle with patience and prayer, and God got us to the completion point,” Brown said. “This is a beautiful church in a good location with a lot of potential to grow.”
Frank and Diane Manipole moved to the area in 2007 from Pittsburgh and started attending Our Lady of Grace shortly after it opened. Both husband and wife said they had great faith in the community from the beginning. Mr. Manipole joined the building committee for Our Lady of Grace and worked with other members through the whole process.
“We initially came down here because some of our children were here, but now we also feel God brought us here,” Mrs. Manipole said. “I think he brought us here to meet these people and help build this church. We’ve all become friendly and we love everybody. It’s a tight-knit group of good people who became close because we’ve all come from somewhere else.”
Bishop Guglielmone announced that Father Jeffrey F. Kirby will be the new administrator at Our Lady of Grace Mission and St. Joseph Church in Chester beginning on Sept. 1.
Top photo: Bishop Guglielmone receives a key to Our Lady of Grace Mission from Father John Giuliani.