The statewide Catholic Diocese of Charleston broke ground Thursday on a three-building campus in West Ashley that will become the new center of its administrative and pastoral work.

The $17.5 million center at a quiet end of Orange Grove Road will include a 175-seat chapel, a three-story office building and a high-tech conference center. The conference center will include teleconferencing abilities and be able to accommodate nearly 200 people for meetings and retreats.

The Pastoral Center is scheduled to open around Christmas 2014.

“A lot of beautiful, powerful things will happen because of what we’re doing here,” Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone said. On Thursday, he blessed the land, with its expansive marsh view and mature trees set in a quiet residential area.

In August 2012, diocesan officials bought the 26.5-acre property, which includes nearly 22 acres of marsh. Orange tape marked the outline of the three buildings, which will be set on the remaining acres.

The diocese is working with an arborist to ensure the preservation of the site’s trees and wetlands, officials said.

Centralizing offices and other functions on one campus will help the statewide diocese better communicate with and serve its clergy, staff and growing ranks of parishioners, Guglielmone added.

Diocesan staff now work in six different buildings throughout the area, including the diocesan Chancery near the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Broad Street. The diocese will sell the Chancery building, most likely in 2015, to help fund the new center, along with selling several other properties and taking out a loan, Guglielmone said.

“We are doing wonderful things, but we are fragmented,” he said. “It is important that people be together, share a cup of coffee and meet with each other in their offices.”

This marks the first time the growing diocese has constructed new administrative and pastoral facilities.

“Historically, this is a first,” Guglielmone said. “We’re building it because we have to meet the needs.”

The diocese comprises 95 parishes and nearly 200,000 Catholics across South Carolina.

Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563, follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes or subscribe to her at facebook.com/jennifer.b.hawes.