St. Mary Magdalene opens new parish life center

Miscellany/Terry Cregar: Father Michael Cellars proceeds Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone during the dedication of St. Mary Magdalene Church’s new parish life building on Dec. 6 in Simpsonville.

SIMPSONVILLE—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone joined Father Theo Trujillo, pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Church, and parishioners on Dec. 6 to dedicate the church’s new parish life building.

To enthusiastic applause, Father Trujillo and Bishop Guglielmone shared in cutting the bright yellow ribbon stretched across the main entrance to the new, $8 million facility, before the bishop strolled through the building, room by room, blessing each one with holy water.

Bishop Guglielmone and Father Trujillo then shared their thoughts on the newest addition to the parish, speaking to a crowd of around 150 people gathered in the building’s gymnasium/fellowship hall.  The event was also livestreamed for those unable to attend the celebration.

“What a blessing it is for us to be here together in this place. We started this beautiful project in the name of the Lord,” Father Trujillo said, adding that he gives gratitude to God “for His blessings upon this beautiful community of St. Mary Magdalene.” 

He recognized the architects, general contractor and engineers who, with God’s blessing and guidance, provided the parish with “the right people at the right time.”

He also offered thanks to the church’s 4,000-plus parish families whose “prayers and generosity made this parish life building possible.”

Bishop Guglielmone, who participated in the groundbreaking for the building in October 2019, said Advent is “a season of hope” that will “first and foremost, help us to come to a deeper understanding of inviting Jesus Christ into our hearts.”

The bishop said the theme of hope reaches beyond Advent.

Scouts stand at attention during the morning’s proceedings.

“There is that hope, as we look at the magnificence of this structure, that it will be able to be used in its fullness,” once the current pandemic passes. “We can’t do that now, but this too will be overcome. This too, will pass. There will come a time when these rooms will be filled with all kinds of activities, filled with people coming to know the Lord ever more deeply, and coming to build relationships with each other in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The new parish life center is the latest in a series of additions to the campus on Woodruff Road in the growing suburbs east of Greenville. Now the largest parish in the diocese, St. Mary Magdalene started as a mission church in the late 1980s, when roughly 300 Catholics gathered for Mass at a nearby Methodist Church, waiting for completion of a permanent worship space.

That building would later become the old parish life center, and a new, larger church was built in the late 1990s, only to be expanded in 2004.

Karen Rankin was among those first St. Mary Magdalene parishioners. She and her husband, Bruce, had prime seats in the new fellowship hall for the dedication.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Mrs. Rankin said, reflecting on when the couple first moved to the Upstate from Indiana some 40 years ago. “There weren’t that many Catholics here back then.”

In addition to the gym, the new building features two meeting halls, a large kitchen, six meeting rooms, outdoor green space, and additional parking spaces.

The variety of activities on the day of the dedication, combined with pandemic restrictions, presented unique challenges for the event’s organizers.

Bob Cardone, capital campaign chairman, said guided tours of the venue were conducted following every Mass the weekend of the dedication. Several guides were assigned to each tour to help ensure proper social distancing, and each participant was required to wear a mask.

 “The challenge has been to maintain as much flexibility and safety for our parishioners by allowing them to pick and choose the way they want to go through the new venue,” Cardone said, an effort that paid off.