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St. Teresa breaks ground on new sanctuary

Posted: August 28, 2013 - 12:10am
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Hartmayer (left) and Boland share a laugh after the groundbreaking ceremony.
Hartmayer (left) and Boland share a laugh after the groundbreaking ceremony.

Columbia County’s sole Catholic church will soon be the largest in the entire diocese.

St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church officially broke ground Monday on an $11 million expansion that will make it the largest Cath­olic church in the Diocese of Savannah.

What began as a small group of families that meet in living rooms of homes in Augusta’s Montclair neighborhood more than 30 years ago, has grown to more than 1,800 families and is still growing, church officials said.

Hundreds of parishioners turned out for the groundbreaking, officiated by the Rev. Gregory Hartmayer, the bishop of the Diocese of Savannah, and attended by Bishop Emeritus J. Kevin Boland.

“It’s a very, very exciting time,” said the Rev. Mike Ingram, St. Te­resa’s pastor. “It’s been a series of growth and blessings.”

The 1,200-seat worship space will be built in the shape of a cross atop a hill on Columbia Road, next to the church’s existing buildings. A $5.5 million parish life center, rectory and education building were built starting in 2004 in
the first of three phases of construction.

The 36,000-square foot worship space is the second phase and is expected to be completed by fall 2014. A youth ministry building will eventually follow. For years, the parish life center has served as the sanctuary of the growing church.

The congregation of St. Teresa moved to the 44-acre property more than a decade ago with 600 families. Today, the church has about
1,800 families and is planning for more.

The church holds services weekly in three languages – English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Hartmayer told the congregation that the diversity is a “blessing and a challenge” that the church embraces. He expects the parish to become a model for diverse growth in the Diocese.

“This parish is a community of communities,” he said.

Ingram said the parish life center served them well, but it was never intended to be a permanent sanctuary. The new space will include a few things the center lacks: a 100-seat chapel, choir space and confessionals. The choir hasn’t had a dedicated practice space since moving to Grovetown, and offices have had to double as confessionals.

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