Parish History

Holy Family Catholic Church is not the name of a building. Holy Family Catholic Church is us - all of us, parishioners, part-time parishioners and visitors. We are folks sharing a living experience of unity with Christ in the organization which He established. We have made an imprint on our campus and would like to share some interesting details with you in the following pages.

Download Parish History (Acrobat PDF file - 14MB!)

At the invitation of local businessmen, Father John Siminon came to the island to celebrate Mass at the Hilton Head Inn. It was late spring of 1961 and the island was in its infancy.
Ten years later, the current location of Holy Family Church was donated by the Fraser family. In February of 1973, the original Holy Family Church was dedicated.

2. THE NEW CHURCH – 1988
Crowds could not be accommodated in the original church, so in 1985 planning began for a new Church; the current structure was completed in 1988 under the direction of the pastor, Father Philip A. Hamilton.
On this tour we will start with the campus of Holy Family and then move inside the church.

As you approach from Pope Avenue, note the copper depiction of the Holy Family by sculptor Wayne Edwards. The inscription on the marble tablet is quite thoughtful. The final lines read: “Sharing their example will bring us happiness and eternal peace. Let us pray for their guidance in all we do."
As you proceed down the driveway, on the right just before the Parish Hall and the parish office, you see the Garden of Saint Francis, a beautiful area for meditation. This contemplative area was donated in memory of Oramae Dressel Knowles by her husband, a non-Catholic. The carrara marble statue was installed in 1986.
Opposite the church is a marble outdoor altar. Featured behind the altar is a mosaic of the Holy Family which was donated to Holy Family by the Ladies Guild in 1979. The logo depicts the Holy Family over the sea suggesting the theme of an island parish withthe fishes representing the faithful.  THe Christ Child, the central figure, is standing with arms outstretched in an attitude of prayer and benediciton.  The fingers of the right hand are extended in the traditional sign of the Holy Trinity. Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove. The Blessed Virgin is seated gazing at her Divine Son.  Her tunic is embroidered with a lily, an emblem of her perpetual virginity.  Saint Joseph, also looking at Jesus, holds a toy boat with a Greek logo for Christ on the sail symbolizing the Universal Church.
At the left of the piazza is a shrine to the Holy Family in bronze sculptures. This beautiful depiction of the Holy Family came from gifts from the estate of Helen T. Cantwell and the family of Marjorie C. Barreca, both long-time parishioners. The sculptures depict Saint Joseph as a carpenter in his workshop with Mary and a young Jesus. The sculptures are the work of Mazzollini Art Craft of Cleveland, Ohio.
On the lawn adjacent to Shiller Hall is a marble monument donated by the Knights of Columbus Council 7289 in memory all the victims of the ongoing abortion holocaust. The guardian angle statue is dedicated to the memory of all Religious Education teachers who serve or have served Holy Family Parish.

Further on, Hamilton Park, is a picnic area honoring the pastor who led the construction of the present Church, Father Philip A. Hamilton. The gazebo is a symbol of welcome used for parish socials.
Beyond Hamilton Park, on the south end of the campus, is a beautiful shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. This shrine has special significance to the many Hispanic parishioners of Holy Family and is the scene of weekly rosary devotions and also an annual procession on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Flanking the Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Stations of the Cross boardwalk. Note the beautiful ceramicSstations within wooden shelters along the walkway. The Stations boardwalk is a more recent addition to the campus and was an Eagle Scout project of parishioner James Rankin. More than $20,000 was donated by parishioners and, along with assistance of the Knights of Columbus Council 7289 and the pastor, Father Hayden J. Vaverek,  construction was completed in April of 2007.


As you approach the church, to the left of the entry doors is the Adoration Chapel, which allows the faithful to visit Christ, wholly present - body, blood, soul and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. The side window contains Blenko glass mounted in an epoxy mixture portraying the Magi. Note the Stations of the Cross inside the chapel. These antique treasures presented in an oil medium are the gift of several parishioners. The painting of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane was donated by parishioner Dan Castro and painted by his father.  The various other paintings in the Chapel are by noted artist Daniel Bonnell.

All of the glass in the church was designed by Father Methodius Telnack of the Trappist monastery in Conyers, Georgia. On entering the Church, you see, on the right, an incredibly beautiful stained glass creation of Father Methodius. It depicts Our Lady of Fatima appearing to three Portuguese children. An angel is seen holding the Most Holy Eucharist. This window is illuminated each evening by spotlights reflecting in reverse off special reflective screens which are lowered nightly for this purpose.

The 14 etched Stations of the Cross which adorn the walls and detail Christ's walk to His crucifixion on Calvary are also works by Father Methodius.
The magnificent pipe organ was built in North Carolina by W. Zimmer & Son and includes a Chamade trumpet stop set on the back wall of the sanctuary. The organ was enlarged in 1992 to a four manual and pedal instrument with 56 stops and 2,619 pipes. 
To accomplish this modification, organ pipes were purchased from several churches in the southeast who were removing organs to replace them with electronic substitutes. Parishioners helped to remove these “purchased” pipes from the other churches and transported them to our church where they organized a “pipe washing party.” After washing, the pipes were laid out on the pews to dry. They were then installed by the Zimmer Company. The finished product has been host to many recitals presented by internationally renowned artists.

The large crucifix above the altar is 20 feet high with a 10 foot corpus.  It was hand-carved in Italy from lindenwood and carefully transported to Hilton Head Island by the Mazzolini Art Craft Company Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio. Note the tabby wall which forms a backdrop to the crucifix. It is made up of sea shell and lime consistent with colonial construction on the island.
16. APSE
To the left of the altar is a cozy apse which lends itself to private prayer and meditation. The windows illustrate olive trees, fields of wheat and grape arbors of the hills of the Holy Land whose products became the means of the First Holy Eucharist. The carved statue of the Holy Family was donated by the Ladies Guild.

The west wing of the Church is accented by twelve stained glass windows. If you stand in the back and look up you will see them. They center on the theme of God’s love for children. Viewing from left to right:
1.    Mary’s mother, Saint Ann, teaches the art of spinning.
2.    Daniel rescues Susanna from elders who charge adultery.
3.    Jesus is greeted by children as he enters Jerusalem.
4.    “Suffer the little children to come unto me…”
5.    Jesus, the youthful teacher, astounds his elders.
6.    Simeon, the prophet, receives the Holy Family.  
7.    Mary visits Elizabeth.
8.    Guardian angels shield and guide each child.
9.    Our Savior is born.
10.  Baptism of the newborn.
11.  Holy Eucharist initiates the child in Mass participation.
12.  Confession renews and enables reaffirmation of faith.

The Baptistry is located with the railing in the back of the nave. The  holy water basin is mounted in the stump of cypress tree which was taken from the church grounds during construction. Behind the baptismal font is the most recent stained glass window, installed in 1996. This window displays the baptism of Christ. In Blenko glass, wit the rays emanating from a symbolic lighthouse, you view the outline of the figures of Christ and John the Baptist. Close examination reveals nature in silhouettes of a dragonfly, a rabbit and a mouse.  Take you time to find other symbols.

“Clerestory” is a term which refers to the upper wall containing windows to illuminate the central part of a church. In Holy Family Church, the clerestory consists of a wonderful series of stained glass windows telling the history of Christianity in the southeastern United States. The background design for all the panels is ocean waves and sea creature inhabitants. The viewing is best from left to right.
Panel 1
Thirteen years after Ponce de Leon landed in Florida, Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon established the town of San Miguel in 1521 on the Carolina Coast near Winyah Bay. Among the 600 colonists were two Dominican friars and one lay brother. It may be presumed that the first Mass in South Carolina occurred in this settlement.  The colony existed until 1526 when its 150 survivors were transported to Hispaniola.

Panel 2
The first permanent Church in the continental United States was at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565. The Jesuit missionaries who were assigned there carried their work as far as Virginia. In 1573, Franciscan missionaries took over. An anti-Christian movement, with a series of raids by The Lords Proprietors (the predominant military power in the Carolinas), took place in 1704.

Panel 3
In 1561, a Spanish expedition took possession of the land surrounding St. Helena (near Parris Island). Dominicans took over religious activities. In 1566, the town of St. Helena was established.  The Jesuits used this mission to work with the YeMassee Indians.

Panel 4
The first Christian Church on Hilton Head Island was the Zion Chapel of Ease, founded in 1799. A Chapel of Ease was a trem used for a small, simple church that provided a convenient place of worship for locals rather than having to travel a distance into the city to worship with a larger congregation.  We mondern-day Catholics might call it a "mission church".

Panel 5
Until the American Revolution it was illegal to maintain a Catholic Church in South Carolina. In 1791, the state legislature approved the incorporation of Saint Mary’s in Charleston.

Panel 6
The Diocese of Charleston was established under Bishop John England in 1820. Bishop England accomplished many things during his tenure: hefounded the first Catholic newspaper in the United States, “The Catholic Miscellany", started the first Catholic school for black children, sponsored the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, invited Ursuline nuns from France, and created a seminary. He once addressed the United States Congress on the topic of religious freedom.

Panel 7
The first Catholic Church on Hilton Head Island was built shortly after the Battle of Port Royal in 1861. It was located in Mitchellville (named after the commanding general of the Union forces on the island). The church was destroyed in a hurricane in 1869.

Panel 8
After World War I, the religious needs of the island were taken care of by the priests and nuns who visited the Pinckney Colony in Bluffton. The first church there was Saint Mary in the Woods, built in 1915. It was later renamed Saint Andrew. It was the only Catholic Church in the area until Holy Family Church was built in 1972.  

Panel 9
A drawbridge to the Island was constructed in 1956. The toll for the bridge lasted six months.

Panel 10
The first Sunday Masses were celebrated by visiting priests in the Hilton Head Inn. Later, Masses were celebrated at the Adventure Inn (named after Capt. Hilton’s flagship, The Adventurer).  

Panel 11
The Fraser family donated land on Pope Avenue and Holy Family Church was built in 1972.  

Panel 12
The original church was too small to accommodate the growing number of parishioners and the current structure was erected in 1988.

Panel 13
Catholic slaves freed after the civil war continued their Catholic faith for over 30 years without the assistance of a priest. When the group was united with the Diocese of Charleston, the parish of Saint James was formed (near Walterboro).

Panel 14
In 1987, Pope John Paul II met with Bishop Ernest Unterkoefler in Columbia at the University of South Carolina.  

Panel 15
This panel is a remembrance of important people associated with origin of our current church: the Pastor, Father Philip A. Hamilton; the designer of the stained glass, Father Methodius Telnack; and the architectural advisor, Bob Christian.

Panel 16
This panel denotes the relationship of man to church.

Panel 17
The Holy Family, to whom this church is dedicated, is a reminder of the continuing role of the family.

Panel 18
World peace is a goal attainable to man if we trust in God and follow His mandates.