Thursday, October 31, 2013
NORTH AUGUSTA — Sister Ellen Francis said The Convent of St. Helena has been referred to as “one of the best kept secrets in Augusta.” On Saturday that “secret” took its first steps toward coming across the river.
The Convent held a blessing of the land ceremony for its new convent on Saturday morning. Bishop Andrew Waldo, of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, presided over the festivities.
“We had houses all over the country – in New York and Seattle – and in 2008 we decided we would all come to live together,” said Francis, who is one of the three members of the leadership council. “We were looking for a new place for a convent that would be large enough for all of us to be in one place. We moved to Augusta and then looked all over the country to decide where we wanted to go.
Then we decided that we already knew people here and we had been in Augusta since 1960, so we started looking at both sides of the river at the land. We weren't thinking that we wanted to move to South Carolina, but this was the land that we found. We loved it here; it's beautiful and peaceful.”
Francis, who is joined by Sisters Carol Andrew and Mary Lois on the leadership council, stated that the land, which is located on 414 Savannah Barony Drive, also would allow for the convent to be a retreat-type space. It would be open for anyone to come and rest.
“We want to be a house of prayer for all people,” she said. “We're not just for Episcopalians, or even Christians. We're here for anyone who wants to have a restful place to pray and to have spiritful conversation with somebody.”
There are currently 15 sisters who are housed at the convent. Francis also noted that while everyone is excited about the new location, they are even more excited about the potential of more young women who are exploring vocation with them.
“We're talking to quite a few people now,” she said. “One is even a teenager, and some are in their 20s and 30s.”
The sisters have been working with the architects, and there is hope that the building will start in January. From there, the sisters hope for it to be finished in a little more than a year. Until then, the sisters will stay in Augusta and continue running their guest house. In Francis' words, they will continue “doing everything they have done before.”
For more information on The Order of Saint Helena visit http://osh.org.