Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville, SC is located in a part of town that is challenged in many ways. The church campus is surrounded by low income housing, high density population, a large transient population and all the difficulties associated with modern American poverty: high unemployment, homelessness, human trafficking, prostitution, substance abuse and broken homes, broken families, broken hearts and lives.
The folks in our St Vincent dePaul Society run a weekly food pantry and a few years ago we opened Mother Teresa House–a referral center for people in need. The director meets folks with needs and works with the other caring agencies in town to assist them best we can.
When we were building the new church some folks asked why were spending so much money on a beautiful building when there were so many needy people in the area. Our answer was that we did not see this as an “either-or”. We maintain a beautiful building and we maintain a beautiful ministry to the needy.
Our people have donated various statues which are placed in the Lower Church where we celebrate Daily Mass. Two that are especially dear to me are the images of St Charles Lwanga and St Maria Goretti. The St Charles Lwanga statue was a newly crafted image donated by a family who had adopted two African American boys. They wanted a black saint, so I recommended St Charles Lwanga. Another family had a special devotion to St Maria Goretti and found an antique statue of her which we purchased and had restored. After obtaining the statues Fr Carlos Martins provided us with first class relics of St Charles and St Maria Goretti.
Without planning it we have an image of a white girl and a black young man–both victims of sexual predators–one heterosexual and the other homosexual. As we are a predominantly white congregation surrounded by a large ethnic minority population, these two saints speak loudly to me of our shared community and some of the problems our people deal with day by day.
Today for All Saints Day we bought both statues with their relics to the Upper Church around which were displayed the relics of about twenty other saints Among them St Benedict, St Therese, Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Kolkata, St Pio, Pope St John Paul II, a first century martyr, the North American martyrs, Elizabeth Ann Seton and more. It was wonderful again this year to be surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.