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In 1984 the Bishop of Charleston announced that a second parish would be formed at the northern end of Hilton Head Island. With a mixture of parishioners gathered from Holy Family Parish on the island’s south end and rapidly arriving newcomers from the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, the Spirit-infused adventure began.
Committees were formed and volunteers were abundant as the fledgling parish began its journey. Many island facilities were used for the growing numbers attending daily and weekend liturgies. The First Presbyterian Church provided space for Saturday evening liturgies and social events. The Crazy Crab Restaurant was the home for Sunday and daily Masses (parishioners referred to it as the “Holy Crab” during this time).
In 1988, out of necessity, Sunday Masses were moved to Hilton Head Primary School. Shortly after, a development site was purchased and parishioners chose the name “St. Francis By The Sea” for their new parish and spiritual home.
Ground was broken for St. Francis By The Sea on March 25, 1990. This event was marked by a celebration with 500 people in attendance. Less than a year later, on March 3, 1991, a first Mass was celebrated in the new church with over 900 people in the pews. The semi-circular, light filled church with white walls, bright carpeting and natural wood finishes throughout was now a permanent home to a rapidly increasing Catholic population.
The Parish was not only blessed with dedicated planners, but also artists who were responsible for original Stations of the Cross and the graceful calligraphy of the Prayer of St. Francis on the rear wall of the church. Even the simply designed, cherry finished altar furniture was created locally. Shortly after completion, the church building received an “Energy and Design Award” from the American Institute of Architects who noted “Innovative daylighting techniques and overall design excellence.” The church building was the first and most important part of the new parish, but there was more to come!
The founding members had planned the church in conjunction with a rectory and office building, which was completed in 1993. In 1995, the Family Center was completed with its two education wings for School of Religion classes. In late 1995, the Bishop allowed a serene, garden-like Columbarium.
Over several years and stages, our Catholic School building project was completed in 1998 with a library. Ground was broken in 2008 for the school’s Fine Arts Center and for a Gym/Auditorium. Our generous parish family may now appreciate the end of our building phase with the completion of these last beautifully designed buildings in 2010. Within these buildings our Parish Mission is lived out with over fifty thriving ministries and nearly 2,000 households as we extend our prayers and work throughout the parish and into the greater Hilton Head Island community.
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