This article was published in the Archdiocesan Bulletin in 1980!
Our Church History In Brief
Beginning in 1947 and for the next nine years, the few Catholics who lived in Rabun County travelled to distant towns to attend Mass. The first Mass celebrated in Clayton was in 1956. Father Bob Healy came down from Franklin NC to serve the needs of the Hollywood film crew that was working on the movie "The Great Locomotive Chase." After the movie was completed, Father Healy continued to travel to Clayton to serve the growing Catholic population, saying Mass at the Community Center or the American Legion Hall. A few years later, Bishop Hyland of the Atlanta Diocese was persuaded to authorize construction of a church in Clayton.
In an inspiring display of generosity and missionary zeal the parishioners of St. Helena Church in Center Square/Blue Belle PA undertook financing of nearly all the cost for a new building project. They took up second collections at a monthly Mass dedicated to their adopted parish and on November 1, 1961 our St. Helena Catholic Church was formally dedicated. A Social and Religious Center was added in 1962 and in June 1963 a breezeway connecting the church and the Center was enclosed, completing construction of the old church campus.
Prior to 1964 St. Helena was a mission of the Verona Fathers from Toccoa GA. In May of 1964 the Glenmary Missions established St. Mark parish in Clarkesville GA and took on St Helena as a second church, both of which were subsequently turned over to the Archdiocese of Atlanta in June of 1992.
A number of dedicated priests have served St. Helena over the years, including Father Luis Zarama, now Auxilliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, as well as several deacons. The parish continued to grow with an influx of Catholics who came from all parts of the country to beautiful Rabun County.
In the year 2000 celebration of the Mass in Spanish was begun to serve a Hispanic community but it was also determined that the number of parishioners at St. Helena could not be properly served in the facilities then available. A decision was made to build a new church; a building campaign was initiated and successfully concluded by parishioners. The new church was built and dedicated in August, 2009. Archbishop Wilton Gregory was celebrant at the dedication and assisted by con-celebrants Bishop Luis Zarama and Father Joseph Nicolo, pastor of St. Helena in Blue Belle PA, among several others. (Please view the slide show for details of the church construction.)
Original plans for the new church included provision for a facility to serve the educational and social needs of the parish. In 2010 a building campaign was undertaken to raise funds for the construction of a Family Life Center and was successfully completed, allowing for the Center to be completed and dedicated by the Archbishop in June of 2013.