SIMPSONVILLE—The story of St. Mary Magdalene Church is one of remarkable growth fueled by the love of the Gospel message.
It started in the late ’80s as a mission of nearby St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, with about 30 families meeting in borrowed space at Ebenezer United Methodist.
Now, St. Mary Magdalene is the largest parish in the diocese, serving more than 3,700 households. Its members hail from more than 30 different countries. The parish hosts more than 80 ministries and Mass is celebrated in four different languages.
Parishioners marked their 25th anniversary on Sept. 18 with a joyful Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone. The church, which seats 1,200, was filled to capacity.
On the path leading to the main church building, the diversity of the people was reflected in a line of flags representing all the different home countries of the parishioners.
The liturgy was concelebrated by Father Teofilo Trujillo, who has served as pastor since 2008, and parochial vicars Father David Runnion and Father Michael Boyle.
In his homily, Bishop Guglielmone stressed the importance of honesty and integrity in daily life, and said St. Mary Magdalene has been a wonderful example of those values for the Simpsonville community.
“Every time I am here, this building is filled to capacity,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “What draws people here? It’s not just that people feel nourished here, it is because the parish offers itself as a beacon of integrity and outreach. This is a community that strives to serve God with prayer and purpose. You have had 25 wonderful years. Continue what you are doing and improve on the ways you can be a beacon of hope for the poor and suffering.”
The liturgy featured the premier performance of the song, “Is it You, Lord?” written by Federico Montes and performed by parishioner Katie Malone. The slow and poignant song is written from the perspective of St. Mary Magdalene during the phases of her life, from her first meeting with Jesus to her seeing him immediately after the resurrection. The song moved many in the congregation to tears.
“Father Teo had asked me a while ago to write a song for her feast day, so I did,” said Montes, who is accompanist for the church choir. “It was very special to me to have it performed for the first time at this celebration. It was an awesome experience.”
The seeds of St. Mary Magdalene were planted in 1984 when the late Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler purchased 13 acres of land off Woodruff Road in Simpsonville. Shortly after, meetings were held to organize a new community, and the Maxwell Pointe group was formed in 1985. Their first Mass was celebrated Feb. 1, 1986. The new parish took root in 1989 and the first church, now the parish hall, was completed in 1991. That building seated 300 and was quickly outgrown.
Original members proudly describe how perpetual adoration started at the parish in 1994 and continues today.
The current building was completed in 1998 and expanded in 2002. St. Mary Magdalene’s property now occupies 22.8 acres along Woodruff Road.
Father Trujillo said he was humbled to celebrate the milestone anniversary.
“I am so blessed to be the pastor here,” he said. “The presence of the Lord is truly present in this parish. He is the one who makes this such a special place.”
Father Trujillo is especially happy about the diversity of the parish, reflected in the line of flags. Mass is offered twice in Spanish every Sunday, and monthly liturgies are held for the Filipino and Polish communities.
Many of the original members of St. Mary Magdalene were at the liturgy and reflected on their unique history afterward.
Bruce and Karen Rankin have been at the parish since the beginning.
Meetings to organize what started as the Maxwell Pointe Catholic Community were held in their living room, and they have been active in the parish through every step of its growth.
“This parish is in our hearts,” Mr. Rankin said. “It’s remarkable to see what it has become.”
Mrs. Rankin remembers when she taught the fledgling mission’s first religious education classes for children. There were 12 students. Today, classes for children and adults draw hundreds every year.
“The Holy Spirit is here,” Mrs. Rankin said. “You can see it in the many ministries we have. There is something for every need — for people who are divorced, battling addiction, who have lost jobs. If someone has a need and there isn’t a ministry for them, they start one. The priests we have are so dedicated to serving. There’s a place for everybody here.”
Top photo: Members of the combined choir sing a hymn during the anniversary celebration.