Immaculate Conception celebrates 25 years

Miscellany/Deirdre C. Mays: Adorno Father Noly Berjuega, pastor, gives Communion to one of his parishioners during the 25th anniversary Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek on March 29.

GOOSE CREEK—Immaculate Conception parish started with 46 families in 1976, and no church to call its own.

As the parish roster grew — and grew — a pastor was appointed and plans to construct a church were approved. Now, with 2,800 families representing the area’s diverse population, the parish is celebrating the 25th anniversary of their church’s dedication.

A highlight event was a dedication Mass celebrated March 29 by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, along with past and present Adorno Fathers assigned to the parish, including Father Nicholas Capetola, who was the first Adorno priest to take the helm back in 1989. 

Father Capetola recalled those early years, when people had to travel to Divine Redeemer in Hanahan or St. Philip Benizi in Moncks Corner until they realized they had enough families to start their own parish in Goose Creek. 

At first, Mass was held in a neighboring Lutheran church on Saturday nights, with visiting priests from St. Philip Benizi and Divine Redeemer. 

Father Capetola said he was contacted by then-Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler, who “suggested that I take a look at this parish in Goose Creek, with no building at the time. I visited Goose Creek and fell in love with the community there and the area.” 

By then, the parish had grown to 300 families and Father Capetola realized very quickly that they needed a church. It took about six years from start to finish, with an official dedication on March 29, 1996.

“This church has everything — a rectory, social hall, ministry building … and over the years there have been additions, like an organ,” he said.

Father Capetola was reassigned in the summer of 1996, but the Adorno fathers have remained at the church throughout the 25 years. 

Father Noly Berjuega, the current pastor, said he particularly enjoys the cultural diversity of the parish. 

Father Berjuega, who was assigned in 2018 and is from the Philippines, said the biggest challenge he has had to overcome so far is the pandemic. 

“I had to find courage. I gained strength from the Adorno fathers who have come before me,” he said, adding that he loves the vibrancy of the church and the spirit that can be felt all around.

That is a sentiment echoed by parishioners, as well. Christina Watkins, who has been there for 15 years and served on staff for eight, said the parish feels like part of a family. She notes that her daughter received all her sacraments there, except for baptism, and was even married there.

Carol Faretra, administrative assistant of Immaculate Conception, has been a parishioner for 39 years — before the church was built. Her children also received their sacraments at the church, including marriage. 

“I am the only secretary they have ever had,” she declared. 

Faretra said she has loved watching the parish grow over the years. 

“There were 62 families when I started. Everyone is so friendly and I love the diversity.”

Immaculate Conception is now the fourth-largest church in the diocese in regards to the number of registered parishioners, according to the Office of Planning and Operations.

In his homily, Bishop Guglielmone recognized the Adorno fathers, noting that the parish is fortunate to have them. He also emphasized how special it was to be celebrating the 25th anniversary at the start of Holy Week.

“The church is a symbol of strength and beauty,” the bishop said. “It has seen so many wonderful things like baptisms and weddings, but it has also seen funerals and when someone seriously ill was anointed. 

“There are people who have come here to pray because they were going through very difficult times. If this building could speak, I wonder what it would say? No matter the situation — maybe even someone coming to pray for a friend stricken with the COVID virus — they were able to come here and feel God’s presence,” he continued. “There has been much to rejoice for here as well. In the end, it is in each other that people can find that sense of community and whom they can travel through life with.”