ANDERSON, S.C. – “We are called to be compassionate,” Provincial MinisterJohn O’Connor, OFM, told hundreds of parishioners and guests who packed St. Mary of the Angels Church here on Jan. 18 for a Mass to dedicate its new worship space.
“We are called to be a light to people,” added John, who celebrated the Mass and altar consecration. Relationships and communication, he said, are very important aspects of life.
By the number of bright faces in the sanctuary, it was easy to feel the light of this rapidly growing church community.
The new church, according to Pastor Aubrey McNeil, OFM, can accommodate twice as many people than the previous one. The pews now can seat 240 people, compared to 115 in the previous sanctuary, he said. Attendance at Mass has doubled since the new church opened in the fall, causing the church to offer five services each weekend.
Among those attending the dedication were parishioners who had watched this four-year construction project unfold, along with neighbors from area churches and out-of-town visitors and friends.
A Majestic Mass
Opening and closing processions by the Knights of Columbus and overall environment made the Mass feel majestic.
Concelebrants of the service were:
► Pastor Aubrey McNeil, OFM
► David Hyman, OFM, pastor from 1994 to 2005, who traveled from his current ministry in Athens, Ga.
► Thaddeus Sappio, OFM, parochial vicar of St. Mary’s
► Dac Tran, OFM, administrator of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, S.C., just north of Anderson
► Patrick Tuttle, OFM, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, S.C.
► Paul Williams, OFM, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Church in Columbia, S.C.
► Fr. C. Alexander McDonald, pastor of three nearby parishes
Henry Fulmer, OFM, shown in photo with John O’Connor, of St. Martin DePorres Church was deacon at the service, and parishioner Tony Soignoli, chair of the parish’s building project, was crucifer.
Music at the event included “In My Father’s House” and “What Is This place?”
More Than a Building
In his homily, John said that a church is more than a building. “It is a facility where we come together to worship. How do we move out from here to be an example to others?” he asked.
John also reminded listeners that Jesus never described people in terms of their class, job or economic status. “We are called to be compassionate,” he said. “Do people see us in a message of inclusion?”
He told the congregation that since St. Francis was optimistic, Franciscans see people as basically good.
At the close of the service, Aubrey, who has ministered to the Anderson parish since 2005, told the congregation, “I am overwhelmed by the kindness of people and the generosity of the community.”
He thanked John for the financial help that the Province contributed, and acknowledged special visitors, including the mayor of Anderson, Terrance Roberts, and representatives of other faith groups. He also acknowledged the six carpenters who worked 11-hour days constructing the church, and the many volunteers who donated time and talents.
After the service, attendees gathered in the adjacent Fr. Francis Gorman Hall for refreshments and fellowship. The hall is named after the late Francis Gorman, OFM.
Soignoli, who supervised the four-year project, said he was gratified with the way the church turned out.
The first Mass in the new sanctuary was celebrated on Oct. 4, 2007. The former church has been converted to nine rooms for religious education classes.
“This parish is truly a light in the community,” parishioner Lester McDowell said.
Aubrey agreed: “This community is growing. We have gone from one Mass to five. Since October, we have seen an increase in Mass attendees from 100 to about 175.”
Information about the community services with which St. Mary’s parishioners are involved will appear in an upcoming issue of HNP Today.
— Jocelyn Thomas is the Province’s director of communications.