Orangeburg parish withstands the tests of time and turmoil

ORANGEBURG—Members of Holy Trinity Church celebrated 100 years on Oct. 15 with prayer, song and,  most of all, a sense of overwhelming love for each other and for their faith community.

Hundreds packed the church on Rivers Edge Drive for a centennial Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.

During his homily, the bishop congratulated parishioners for the role Holy Trinity has played in spreading the Gospel in Orangeburg.

“Think of all the wonderful things that have happened here in 100 years — the weddings, the baptisms and confirmations, the sins that have been forgiven, the healing that has been brought to people through sacraments and through prayers,” he said.

Holy Trinity’s history is one that reflects the joys and challenges of a community dealing with social change and a growing, diversifying population to overcome racial and social divides through belief in God’s love.

According to a published parish history, the first Catholic church in Orangeburg was dedicated by Bishop Henry P. Northrop in 1893 on property donated by local resident Frederick Cooner. Prior to that, visiting priests celebrated Mass in private homes in the area. The church was named Holy Trinity and it was officially elevated to parish status in 1917 when Father Richard Quinn arrived in Orangeburg as the first permanent resident pastor.

All photos by Christina Lee Knauss/Miscellany: Father Wilbroad Mwape, administrator of Holy Trinity, and Carol Christian share a laugh.

The Redemptorist Fathers took charge of Holy Trinity during the 1930s and built a brick building to replace the wooden one.

During those years of segregation, black Catholics in Orangeburg did not have their own place to worship. The Redemptorists started a mission for the black community in 1939 and initially built a combination church, school and convent on property on Treadwell Street.

Four days before the mission property was to be dedicated, it was burned down. Undaunted, the priests rebuilt and it was dedicated Christ the King Church by Bishop Emmet Walsh on Oct. 18, 1942.

In 1943, Oblate Sisters of Providence arrived to staff the parish school, the first and only Catholic school in the county.

The two churches served Orangeburg until 1966, when Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler, concerned about issues of separatism and segregation in the Church, announced that the two parishes would merge. Christ the King closed, and the first Mass for the combined parishes was celebrated on Aug. 13, 1967.

The parish started fundraising for a new church building in 1984, and the current church was dedicated by Bishop David B. Thompson in December 1992. Also that year, the Redemptorists left Orangeburg after nearly 60 years and returned oversight of Orangeburg to the Diocese of Charleston.

Today, Holy Trinity is home to more than 400 families and also is in charge of three missions: St. Andrew in Barnwell, St. Theresa in Springfield, and St. Mary in Allendale. Father Wilbroad Mwape is the administrator, and Father Gustavo Corredor is parochial vicar.

After the anniversary Mass, the congregation processed next door to the parish life building, where a new sign was revealed officially renaming it Christ the King Pastoral Center. Bishop Guglielmone blessed the building and the crowd applauded.

Many members of Holy Trinity grew up at Christ the King, and they said the building’s new name was a welcome acknowledgment of the church they knew and loved as children. The cornerstone of Christ the King Church now stands in a prayer garden on Holy Trinity campus.

Maria Lopez, Marisol Azamar, Virginia Danzler and Marilyn Maulion help their fellow parishioners select from an offering of international food at the reception following Mass.

“It’s such a blessing to my heart to see this new name for the building,” said Josephine Evans, who grew up at Christ the King and also attended school there. “This gives us a sense of history and helps to bring our community full circle. We can acknowledge our diversity and continue to be blessed and grow as a parish.”

The diversity of Holy Trinity’s congregation was evident at a celebratory meal held afterward. Long lines snaked through a room in the pastoral center, where volunteers served up everything from traditional Sunday dinner fare such as fried chicken and macaroni and cheese to Mexican, Filipino, Indian and African cuisine.

Before and after the meal, people sat at tables scattered around Holy Trinity’s property, and laughed and talked together while children played on nearby swings.

Cheryl Baugh, who has attended Holy Trinity for 67 years, said the celebration was a reflection of a parish where people from many different backgrounds find friends and spiritual comfort. She recalled the early days in the original small brick building, when the property was so small that she and other children attended catechism classes held in the old rectory.

Baugh was married at the old Holy Trinity church, and her two daughters were married at its current location.

“We’ve got a very friendly parish where everyone feels welcome,” Baugh said. “It’s a blessing to be able to see so many people together celebrating this milestone.”

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone chats with a group of ladies after celebrating Holy Trinity’s 100th anniversary Mass.