GREENSBORO — "How lovely is Thy dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God." (Psalm 84)
The responsorial psalm for the 60th anniversary Mass at Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensboro on Friday, Aug. 10, was a fitting selection as parishioners celebrated the past and looked forward to the future.
Pictured: Our Lady of Grace Church celebrated its 60th anniversary Aug. 10, with a Mass celebrated by Father Eric Kowalski, pastor. "Sixty years is a wonderful opportunity to say, first off, thank you, dear Lord, but also a time to commit ourselves to God not for 60 more years or 120 more years, but from here to eternity and the life to come," Father Kowalski said in his homily. (Photos by Ryan Murray | Catholic News Herald)
As parishioners entered the church prior to Mass, each one was welcomed with the beautiful voices of the Our Lady of Grace Youth Choir and the joyous music being played on the 2,226-pipe Kleuker "Jubilee Organ."
While the Mass was a celebration of the 60 years that have passed since the church was built in 1952, Our Lady of Grace's pastor Father Eric Kowalski reminded the congregation during his homily that members needed to continue to commit themselves to the Lord.
"Sixty years is a wonderful opportunity to say, first off, thank you, dear Lord, but also a time to commit ourselves to God not for 60 more years or 120 more years, but from here to eternity and the life to come," Father Kowalski preached.
Our Lady of Grace Church was erected in 1952 thanks to $700,000 provided by Julian Price of Greensboro and his family as a memorial to his late wife Ethel Clay Price. The first Mass was celebrated on July 13, 1952, and the church was dedicated on Sept. 14, 1952.
The church was designed by renowned architect Henry V. Murphy of New York, who was on hand for the church's dedication in 1952 along with dignitaries including Raleigh Bishop Vincent Waters and Archbishop Amleto Cicognani, the Vatican's apostolic delegate to the U.S. The "North Carolina Catholic," the diocesan newspaper of the time, reported that four other bishops, two abbots, a bishop-elect and numerous other clergy attended the solemn pontifical Mass and dedication rite, which was "rich in religious pageantry."
During his homily at the 60th anniversary Mass, Father Kowalski said that while the church has truly been a dwelling place of God for quite some time, parishioners must live their Catholic faith if the church is to continue to be a holy place for Catholics in Greensboro:
"If we are to truly be a dwelling place of God, it means on our part an acceptance of God's will and the tremendous desire to follow it each day," Father Kowalski said.
That desire by parishioners was evident both throughout the Mass and at the celebration following the Mass.
After the Profession of Faith, there was a special acknowledgment of the alumni and faculty of Our Lady of Grace School, with each receiving a special blessing and carnation from Father Kowalski.
"We are one family, both school and church, and we are called to be that presence and that witness of Christ in our community," Father Kowalski said after the Mass. "Just like we have been for the last 60 years."
Following the Mass, parishioners, visiting clergy and honored guests took part in a celebration that included a wide variety of activities.
Historical guided walking church tours were given by Jim McCullough, director of religious education at Our Lady of Grace Parish, in which he described the various design elements of the church meant to spiritually uplift worshippers from the time they enter through their journey of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ during Holy Communion.
During the anniversary celebration, parishioners were also treated to dinner, drinks and desserts while being entertained with DJ music throughout the night. Children also enjoyed inflatable jumpers and took part in a scavenger hunt learning fun facts about the history of Our Lady of Grace Church and School.
Parishioner Debbie Bergeron, originally from Rhode Island, has been a member of Our Lady of Grace Parish for 27 years.
"I've been in the music ministry since 1990 and have so many memories," Bergeron said. "Music really is my favorite way to pray."
Bergeron also described what has made Our Lady of Grace Church special to her.
"When we were first looking at Catholic churches when we moved to North Carolina, Our Lady of Grace reminded me of my home parish – It had the real Roman Catholic feel," Bergeron described. "From the décor to the way the Mass is celebrated, Our Lady of Grace truly is home for me."
Looking to the future, it is important for Our Lady of Grace Parish to meet the challenges that lie ahead, Father Kowalski noted.
"People know, as I know, we all have challenges but we've got to meet those challenges," he said. "God does things for a purpose, and we can be filled with hope and courage and not be afraid, because Christ is here."
With strength, enthusiasm and witness, parishioners celebrated the 60th anniversary of Our Lady of Grace Church and prayed that the parish will continue to be a lovely dwelling place of the Lord, giving true meaning to Psalm 84.
— Ryan Murray, correspondent
See the full Jubilee Parish History.
Our Lady of Grace Church's architecture
HENRY MURPHY, ARCHITECT, MADE ELABORATE PLANSA most interesting story surrounds the selection of Henry V. Murphy, architect for the Church of Our Lady of Grace. At the time the late Julian Price was conferring with His Excellency, the Most Reverend Vincent S. Waters, Bishop of Raleigh, to consider a fitting memorial to his wife in the form of a Church edifice, a portfolio of selected outstanding contemporary American churches had been published and distributed throughout the nation to various church dignitaries.
The Bishop possessing one of these portfolios showed it to Mr. Price, and together they searched for an inspiration for the ideal edifice to grace the city of Greensboro. From cover to cover they searched and each time returned to the page depicting the Church of Our Lady of Refuge in the city of Brooklyn, of which Henry V. Murphy of that city was the architect. Mr. Murphy was then commissioned by His Excellency to prepare plans for the Church of Our Lady of Grace, the Ethel Clay Price Memorial.
CONFERENCES ARE HELD
Conferences followed, and after months of study, with the critical cooperation of His Excellency, a solution was arrived at, plans were completed, construction begun and the Church of Our Lady of Grace took concrete form.
Although following the French Gothic style it is a perfectly free rendering of that remarkable tradition. Its general aspect is notably one of refined simplicity. The austerity of the seam-face granite walls is relieved at salient points with sculpture of symbolic motive – as the tympanum over the central doorway depicting Our Lady of Grace with figures both contemporary and traditional grouped about her – the tympanum over the south doorway depicting the recently defined Dogma of Mary's Assumption into Heaven – the tympanum over the tower entrance representing the adoration of the Virgin.
The dominant feature of the composition is expressed in the main facade in the enshrined lifesize stone carving of Our Blessed Mother holding her Divine Child, with angels standing guard, and silhouetted against a stone tracery forming a rose window.
Pyramided against the sky is the graceful tower surmounted by a delicate copper fleche.
Upon entering the nave one is at once impressed by the emphatically religious and Catholic atmosphere created by the stations of the Cross, the stained glass windows, the decoration throughout, and by the spacious sanctuary treated in finely selected marble. Appropriately placed throughout are devotional shrines, confessionals and Holy Water Fonts. Instead of following the usual custom of placing the organ loft over the narthex, it has been located in the tower. The organist's balcony projects slightly to afford a full view of the altar as well as of the central entrance.
The piers, arches and walls are all of brick, of a delicately warm tone, imparting a sense of vitality to the design. Several features of the plan deserve attention – the traditional division of the body of the church into three parts is preserved, but the nave is widened to contain all the pews, while the side aisles are reduced to circulating passages.
With the passing of time public attention will become more and more aware that in the beauty of its modest proportions, the thoughtfulness of its design, from the largest to the smallest interest, this building has been given study worthy of a Cathedral."
— Reprinted from the Sept. 12, 1952, edition of "North Carolina Catholic"
Pastors at Our Lady of Grace Church
1952-1962 Monsignor Arthur Freeman
1962-1966 Monsignor Peter McNerney
1966-1968 Monsignor (later Bishop) Charles B. McLaughlin
1968-1971 Monsignor Michael J. Carey
1971-1972 Monsignor (later Bishop) Michael J. Begley
1972-1979 Monsignor Francis M. Smith
1979-1986 Monsignor William N. Pharr
1986-1988 Father Thomas P. Clements
1988-1993 Father Walter M. Dziordz, M.I.C.
1993-2001 Father Mark Lamprich
2001-2005 Father Francis J. O'Rourke
2005-2012 Father Fidel Melo
2012-present Father Eric Kowalski