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Our History

St. Francis de Sales Church was established as an off-shoot of St. Peter’s parish in the mid-summer of 1920 and witnessed remarkable growth and progress.  The church, located at 516 Maple Street, was nicknamed “the cardboard cathedral” because it was a rebuilt K of C wartime recreation building from Camp Jackson.

The first pastor was Fr. Louis Jacquier of the Oblate Fathers of St. Francis de Sales, the church being named in honor of the order.  On July 15, 1946, Fr. Alfred F. Kamler was assigned as pastor.  Fr. Kamler had served as a chaplain with the Marine Corps in the Pacific theatre during World War II.  Fr. Thomas M. Jellico reported to the parish in September 1946, as Assistant Pastor.

Throughout this time, St. Francis de Sales parish continued to grow steadily.  The modest frame structure soon became inadequate to accommodate the expanding parish.  The pastor and people prayed, hoped, and planned for a new church.  But where could the resources be found?

Msgr. Charles Dubois Wood, P.A., who served for many years as a priest of the Diocese of Charleston, made provision in his will for a bequest of $120,000 to be used to build a church in South Carolina. His Excellency the Most Re. Emmet M. Walsh, D.D., Bishop of Charleston, designated St. Francis d Sales parish as beneficiary.  Additional contributions by the Catholic and non-Catholics of Columbia made possible the establishment of a new church.

On October 17, 1948, the cornerstone of St. Joseph Catholic Church was laid by Bishop Walsh. The principle address was given by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Martin C. Murphy, pastor of St. Peter’s Church.  In addition to Fr. Kamler and Fr. Jellico, many clergy from the Diocese of Charleston, parishioners, friends, and benefactors of St. Francis were in attendance at this ancient ritual.

The Church was later dedicated on September 11, 1949, by His Excellency the Most Rev. Francis P. Keough, D.D., Archbishop of Baltimore, with Bishop Walsh.

St. Joseph Catholic Church is in the Medieval English Gothic style.  This Architectural style was selected after much thought and discussion as it provides the best representation of the doctrines, symbolism, and spirit of the ancient faith.

The floor plan of the church is cruciform, symbolic of the Cross upon which Christ died.  The sanctuary is the place of His thorn-crowned head; the crossing with the two transepts the place of His sword-pierced body; and the narthex where His sacred feet were spiked to the wood of the Cross.

The word Nave is taken from the Latin “navis”, which means ship since the ceiling of the nave often takes the form of a ship’s truss.  Other features of the Gothic plan are the side aisles created from a series of graceful arches resting on sturdy columns and supporting the weight of the clerestory which extends up to carry the roof trusses.  The element of height characteristic of the Gothic directs the mind to the Heavenly Kingdom.

The east and west transepts at the crossing are entered from the side aisles through wide-arched openings.  On the east is the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin; on the west the Chapel of St. Joseph, Patron of the Church. Each contains a beautiful rose-colored Carrara marble altar, whose pedestal supports a hand-carved statue done in Texas limestone.

Both the altars of Repose and of Sacrifice are also rose-colored Carrara marble.  The Tabernacle, made in Florence, Italy, is of heavy cast bronze.

In the back of the Tabernacle, resting on a marble pedestal rises the Holy Rood Group of hand-carved oak.  The figure of Christ is of heroic size, being eight feet six inches high.  The corpus is modeled after the impression of Our Lord’s body left on the Shroud of Turin.  The Blessed Virgin and the beloved Disciple St. John are at the foot of the Cross symbolizing the holy Hill of Calvary.

In 1948, a Moeller pipe organ was installed in the choir loft. The organ was rebuilt and enlarged in 1982.  It currently includes 1305 pipes in 21 ranks.  The organ supports congregational singing and provides music for the many liturgies.  In 2003, a wonderful gift of four large cast bronze swinging bells was given to the church.  This initial peal of bells brought a new voice to enhance the worship at St. Joseph and to make Christ known in the greater community.

Additional bells were added as donations were received.  In the spring of 2005, a magnificent donation of 22 bells was received which complete the carillon of 36 bells.

These bells are now a vital part of the worship and life of the church and community.  They add their voice to the community sounding clock chimes-hour strikes, wedding and celebratory peals, funeral tolls, the traditional call-to-worship, and the Angelus and Sanctus bells as well as play beautiful hymns and songs of the church.

The windows around the church are a rich, translucent stained glass which tell the story of the life of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph.  The stained glass windows above the street level depict various sins while the windows at the narthex side entrances house windows commemorating St. Francis de Sales and St. Joseph.

The Stations of the Cross are recessed into the wall.  They are also in the Gothic style and were specifically hand-made for this church.  In the spirit of the Gothic style, the figures are of large size, very colorful, and religious-spirited.

From early on and continuing to the present time, St. Joseph Parish has recognized the importance of a strong Catholic education and moral training of the youth.

Plans for St. Joseph Catholic School began in the spring of 1953 when the parish received permission from the bishop for a fund-raising campaign.  A drive was launched in May of 1953 and ground was broken in December.

The school, opened on September 7, 1954, to 276 children, was formally dedicated on November 28, 1954, by the Most Rev. John J. Russel, D.D., Bishop of Charleston.

During the first years of operation, the school consisted of grades 1-6 with one of each class.  A grade 7 was added in 1955 and a grade 8 was added in 1956.  In 1989, grades 7 and 8 were incorporated into Cardinal Newman Middle School.  Kindergarten was added in the early 1970’s, and in 1992 the kindergarten program was expanded to include 4-year-olds.  Today the school has 16 classrooms for grades 4K -6 with an enrollment of over 300 students.  The school also includes a computer lab, an art room, a library, a guidance office, a music/fine arts room, and a science lab.

On May 7, 1997 The Most Rev. David B. Thompson, D.D., J.C.L., Bishop of Charleston gave permission to commence a capital campaign. Planning for the building and renovation campaign began in June, 1997, and in October the campaign kicked off with a parish gala.  The Most Rev. Robert J. Baker, S.T.D., Bishop of Charleston, dedicated the Parish Hall/Gymnasium and Rowland Education Building on October 16, 2001.  The Rowland Education Building housed 6 classrooms and a choir room; the Parish Hall/Gymnasium is a multipurpose facility including kitchen facilities and serves the school, parish, and community.  Later, the Education Building was named the Rowland Education Building in honor of Rev. Msgr. Charles H. Rowland, P.A., pastor from 1991 until 2006.

In addition to the Rowland Education Building and Parish Hall/Gymnasium, many less visible improvements and updates were made to the parish facilities.  In addition, a covered walkway was added to the front of the school, and a courtyard, uniting the church and school facilities, was completed in 2004.  The courtyard includes the St. Joseph Fountain a favorite gathering area and a popular backdrop for photos.

A Columbarium is located in a beautiful garden setting behind the church and provides a reverential place of interment for the cremated ashes of our beloved deceased.  This setting recreates the “church-yard cemetery” tradition of earlier America, as it reposed the remains of persons in a setting close to familiar surroundings in which they worshipped.  To the living, it provides a garden spot for visitation, remembrance, and prayer for the deceased.  The Columbarium was blessed by Bishop Baker on Sunday, December 19, 2004.

On July 5, 2006, Fr. Richard D. Harris was assigned as pastor of St. Joseph.  After only 9 months of his appointment by Bishop Baker, it became apparent to Fr. Harris that there were pressing parish needs to be addressed.  After meeting with Parish Leadership and the Building Committee, it was decided to begin a second capital campaign.

Through continued meetings with the Leadership of the parish, existing plans were reviewed and expanded to meet the current and future needs of the church and school.  The demands for more meeting space, renovations to the sanctuary, improved rectory facilities, and educational enhancements are at the forefront.  With the generosity, support, and prayers of the parishioners, St. Joseph continues to move forward with pride in our past and faith in our future.

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