Poker winnings help fund new church building

Myrtle Beach, SC - By Chandi Lowry - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - An area church catapulted into the national spotlight for its "Poker Playing Priest" has announced plans for a new church are moving forward.

The Bishop for the Diocese of Charleston has given St. Michael's Catholic the green light to build a new parish after years of fundraising and a trip to California by the church's priest, Father Andrew Trapp.

At a Sunday evening mass, St. Michael's Catholic Church announced groundbreaking for the $6.5 million facility could begin as early as January. Final construction plans for the parish, however, are undergoing final tweaks and changes.

"Oh, we are excited about it," church member Mary Jo Kropp said. "We'd like to see it pretty soon. The church is so giving and the priests that we have are fantastic."

Father Andrew Trapp, also known as the "Poker Playing Priest," hoped to add $1 million to the building fund by competing in a nationally televised poker tournament. While he didn't walk away with the $1 million prize as he had hoped, he managed to contribute $100,000 in winnings to the fund.

"Last night at the 5:30 [p.m.] mass I was able to tell everybody and everybody was all excited," Trapp said. "The sacrifices of everybody contributing in their own way really made it possible."

Trapp says the church is working with architects on the detailed plans and says they should be done in a few months.

"One of the neat things going on right now is we've got a lot of the parts on the inside of the church that we are ordering and designing," Trapp explained.

Father Raymond Carlo says he is hoping the congregation will be able to stay in the old church while the new one is being built. Crews will tear down the rectory and put the new church where a parking lot is currently.

St. Michael's Catholic Church has $4.2 million to put toward the project and the Bishop says they can take out a loan for $1 million. Trapp says the church needs to raise about $900,000 more. It is now selling bricks and pews to help reach its $6.5 million goal.

The church will continue to do fundraising for the rest of the money and they hope to break ground on the new building by the end of this year.

Officials say the new facility will be able to hold more than 12,000 people.

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