Clemson Parish Marks 80th Anniversary

Daniel McLellan, OFM Friar News


CLEMSON, S.C. — “Perhaps we’ve overbuilt,” was the reaction of Charleston Bishop Emmett Walsh as he dedicated the 85-seat St. Andrew Chapel on Dec. 8, 1935 in the presence of 30 local Catholics.

Eighty years later, on Dec. 8, 2015, Walsh’s successor, Bp. Robert Guglielmone, celebrated an anniversary Mass with a congregation of 300 representing the parish’s 600 households and hundreds of Clemson University’s Catholic students. A story about the event was published in the Independent Mail newspaper of Anderson, S.C., on Dec. 18.

Still, the chapel remains the venue for daily Mass, weddings and baptisms.

Eighty years ago, the almost 1,200 square miles of Oconee and Pickens counties had a handful of Catholics. The greatest concentration was in Clemson, thanks to the 25 or so Catholic cadets enrolled in Clemson Agricultural College. Priests from Anderson and Greenville, roughly 30 miles away, would occasionally visit the area; otherwise, locals made the 20-mile trek to Anderson until Greenville’s John Gallivan donated land and construction costs for the chapel, primarily to serve Clemson students.

On June 24, 1940, the local community became a parish, using the chapel until a newer facility was built in the 1970s.

A 325-seat church was built in the late 70s, thanks to the growth of the agricultural school into a university of more than15,000 students, and the growth of the parish, now 600 households strong. The chapel is used for daily Mass, weekly Adoration, confessions, baptisms, weddings and small funerals.

The Paulists served both students and locals for more than 60 years, before ceding the ministry to the diocese. In July 2012, Robert Menard, OFM, succeeded Jack McDowell, OFM, as campus chaplain, and in December of that same year, I became pastor.

Author Dan McLellan, pictured here, celebrating Mass earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of St. Andrew's Parish)

Author Dan McLellan, pictured here, celebrating Mass earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of St. Andrew’s Parish)

While celebrating its roots, St. Andrew has been busy crafting a vision — growing its downtown footprint by buying and renovating three abutting residences for education and meeting space, and, in the fall of 2016, beginning a capital campaign to construct a parish center and new 500-seat church.

In years past, the friars referred to the places like South Carolina as the “southern missions.” With 4 percent of the South Carolina population identifying as Roman Catholic, the reference remains accurate.

— Fr. Dan, a native of Massachusetts, was pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, N.C., before moving to Clemson in 2012. The Province has staffed parishes in the upstate region of South Carolina since 1939.

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