ST. PAUL HISTORY
St. Paul the Apostle Parish Church
St Paul the Apostle parish is part of the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina.
After nearly 20 years of planning and a year and a half of construction, the new sanctuary at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, which faces East Main Street and rises 63 feet toward the sky, is ready for use.
The church dedicated its new 12,000-square-foot worship space Monday night, and while the new sanctuary seats 820 people, there weren't nearly enough seats to house the crowd that gathered for the service. Some sat in folding chairs in the open entrance way, or narthex, as it is called in the Catholic Church. Others stood in the back of the sanctuary.
“Honestly, I'm almost overwhelmed. I'm speechless,” said Catherine Welchel, a parishioner who also served on the building committee. “To be able to build a sanctuary like this to worship our lord in is awesome.”
A sturdy, permanent architectural feature called a Baldacchino rises toward the ceiling on the stage over the high altar. It is made out of wood, marble, concrete and steel.
Unlike the old sanctuary, the new one has no stained glass windows, which was intended to “save money,” said building project manager Joe Lauer, who also helped build the Chapman Cultural Center, the George Johnson School of business downtown and the Thomas E. Hannah YMCA.
Of all the projects, “this was my favorite,” he said. “It's my home church.”
The church congregation has been celebrating Mass in its gymnasium since 1994, not the historic 100-year-old, 250-seat church facing Dean Street.
Parishioners will celebrate their first Mass in the new church Sunday.
“We are very, very excited,” said Carolyn Bridgeman, who has been attending the church for 49 years. “This is going to be a holy event for all us because we are not used to actually worshipping in a sanctuary.”
During the dedication, which consisted of hymns and prayer, the Rev. Robert E. Guglielmone, bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, walked through the aisles and blessed the building with holy water.
“May God, the Father of mercies, dwell in this house of prayer,” Guglielmone said after he distributed the holy water. “May the Grace of the Holy Spirit cleanse us, for we are the temple of his presence. Through Christ our Lord.”
The congregation said “Amen,” and the word echoed throughout the open room, where high arches and columns with intricately designed capitals line both side walls.
St. Paul the Apostle Historic Church
St Paul the Apostle parish is part of the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina. The Catholic presence in our state goes back over 200 years. The first canonical parish in the state was St. Mary's in Charleston, founded in 1787. At that time, all thirteen colonies comprised the Diocese of Baltimore under the jurisdiction of Bishop John Carroll. By 1820, the Catholic population in the South had increased. The states of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia were separated from the Diocese of Baltimore and the Diocese of Charleston was formed. Its first bishop, John England, had only six priests to help him attend to the needs of Catholics living in these three states.
The first Catholics moved into the Upstate around 1850. At that time, Spartanburg was part of a large mission territory that was served from St. Peter's in Columbia. In 1882, Rev. John J. Monaghan was appointed pastor of St. Mary's in Greenville. He quickly raised the money to build St. Paul's Church and the cornerstone was laid October 14, 1883. It can still be seen at the southwest corner of the building. The building was enlarged in 1937 to include a new sanctuary and additional seating. Of note are the stained glass windows depicting six of the seven sacraments and the handsome marble altar imported from Italy, representing Holy Eucharist.
The Diocese of Charleston
St. Paul the Apostle Church—A Profile of Catholic Development by Tina Haddox, 1978.