Posts Tagged ‘ Catholic Church ’

Divine Saviour Catholic Church, Part II – Visited on 12/9

Last Sunday Churchspotting visited Divine Saviour Catholic Church of York, SC (  Today we sit down with Father Adilso Coelho, the presiding priest at Divine Saviour, to learn a bit about him and his church.

Father Adilso is a genial man in early middle age, of middling height and build.  A native of the state of Santa Katarina in southern Brazil, he entered a seminary administered by the Franciscan order at age eleven and studied there for the next twelve years.  At age twenty-three, troubled by doubts of his course and vocation, he left the seminary and moved to the United States.

After a few years in American Fr. Adilso returned to his religious education; in his words, he “realized that God was really calling him to the priesthood.”  After reviewing the United States’ Catholic religious orders, he decided to join the Oratory of St. Phillip Neri in Rock Hill, SC, 1998, where he resides to this day.

After a year as a novitiate in the Oratory and two more years of theological study at Notre Dame University, New Orleans, Fr. Adilso was ordained a priest of the Catholic Church in 2001.  His first post was as an assistant priest at St. Anne Catholic Church in Rock Hill, where he became pastor after a year and a half.  For the next nine years he was the priest of St. Anne’s, until he was transferred to Divine Saviour in 2010.

According to Father Adilso there are approximately ten thousand Catholics in York County, SC.  Though Catholicism is a minority denomination in the area, the last several months of Churchspotting show that the Protestant majority is divided into any number of smaller groups and associations.  In terms of united religious associations, the Catholics of York County constitute a powerful minority.  Fr. Adilso’s church associates with its Protestant neighbors during each year’s Holy Week, and Adilso himself is a member of a multidenominational ministerial association that meets each month.

In terms of charitable works, Divine Saviour provides needy parishioners with approximately $600 in relief each month, distributed by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and also offers an open food pantry that parishioners can avail themselves of in extremity.

On the subject of Church and State, Fr. Adilso echoed sentiments Churchspotting has heard from other religious leaders of York County, who believe that the State is acting to curb and ostracize Christian practice.  Uniquely, however, Fr. Adilso tied this effort more to large corporations than to the government.  He complained of Wal-Mart and other large retailers removing religious elements from their holiday products.  He believes that the heads of such corporations are not Christians themselves, and are acting to change the way Christians think about themselves and their religion.


Divine Saviour Catholic Church, Part I – Visited on 12/4

By the time the traveler comes within sight of Divine Saviour Catholic Church of York, SC, he’s stopped expecting it.  The long cruise down Highway 321 into the outskirts of York passes several churches—white walled one-story affairs, Baptist and Methodist churches with seating within for a few dozen, their modest spires perched atop structures that could easily convert into auto part stores or hardware suppliers.

By the time the seeker turns down Herndon towards Divine Saviour, those buildings are well past.  The journey has taken her into residential blocks, brick and wood family homes garlanded with trees.  There’s a creeping suspicion that she’s taken a wrong turn, that the church is already somewhere behind.  And then, in the midst of respectable suburban housing, there it is: a broad, two-story structure of red brick, the arch of its roof topped with a modest black cross, surrounded by a lean horseshoe of parking with a broader lot across the street.

Without that cross and the church’s sign by the road, it could be a neighborhood library or a small civic building, but the white plaster statue of Jesus out front soon dispels such notions.  The plaster is weathered with age, the fingers of one hand snapped off some time ago, but the robed figure still beckons in parishioners as they make their way to Mass.

Inside, Divine Saviour is all red brick—walls, ceiling, floors, everything is warm earth tones and yellow light.  From the outside the church is unimposing—which makes the size and grandeur of its sanctuary all the more impressive.  With seating for over a hundred, the principal space of Divine Saviour is two stories of empty air, the rafters of its arched roof bare and dark above, hung with cylindrical electric lamps on long, black cords that dangle from on high.

The walls are adorned with remarkable artwork: all the ‘Stations of the Cross,’ the ritual progression of Jesus’s march towards crucifixion, with the figures of each scene done in abstract, wrought iron sculpture upon backgrounds of bare wood.  The far wall, behind the silk-hung altar and the speaker’s pulpit, is dominated by a high arched alcove within which hangs the church’s crucifix.  In like style to the portraits at either hand the wrought iron figure of Christ crucified projects from the alcove, lit from beneath, moored by iron spars extended from the wall behind.  Viewed face on the crucifix seems to hang in midair, stark and mournful, as befits the representation of a man in the midst of one of Imperial Rome’s more inventively torturous execution sentences.

Two columns of pews fill the sanctuary’s floor space, and on the morning of the 4th of December, the second Sunday of Advent—the month-long Christian celebration of the birth of their savior—at least a hundred and fifty parishioners filled their bare wooden seats.  There are few affordances for comfort on those rigid benches—like the slave-carved pews of Allison Creek Baptist Church, they are meant to keep the worshipper focused on matters spiritual, not temporal pleasures.

The parishioners themselves arrived in a mixture of casual and formal dress, a distinction that seemed due more to personal preference than any defined tradition.  There was no separate ‘Children’s Church’ as one finds in some Protestant worship services—the congregation’s children stayed with their parents throughout Mass, and more than once the cries of the little ones made their presence felt.

Music in that morning’s Mass came from a proficient, well-drilled choir fronted by a trio of singer-guitarists and backed by a strident keyboard.  Their performances filled the spaces between each article of the Catholic Mass, prescribed by centuries (if not a millennia and more) of tradition and followed by Catholic churches the world over that morning.

That morning’s sermon was delivered by the church’s deacon, not the priest.  In recognition of Advent he drew upon the early verses of the Book of Mark, advising the listening parishioners that, like John the Baptist who baptized early believers in the wilderness, it was their role to speak out in their society and prepare the way for the second coming of their savior, as they believe John did for his first appearance.

This is the first of two articles on Divine Saviour Catholic Church.  Come back later this week and we’ll sit down with Divine Saviour’s resident priest, Father Adilso Coehlo.