NORTH AUGUSTA — Last October, The Convent of St. Helena held a blessing of the land ceremony for its new location on 414 Savannah Barony Drive.
At the time, the hope was that construction would begin in January. Though it took a little longer than expected, dirt is moving and construction has started on the future home of the 15-member group.
“We did a blessing of the land because, well, we are a religious order; and it was more appropriate for us than a traditional groundbreaking,” Sister Ellen Francis said. “We had some work to do, but now we have some dirt moving. Walls will be going up in a month or so, and we are very, very excited about it.”
The architects are Cheatham, Fletcher and Scott and the contractor is R.W. Allen. Both are out of Augusta, and Francis said it was important to the sisters to use local companies.
“We wanted to use local companies who know the area, and we have been absolutely delighted and thrilled working with both of them,” she said. “They have done a wonderful job for us.”
The current target date is fall 2015, Francis said. She estimated it would take 12 months for crews to complete the building, and a certificate of occupancy could be issued around September or October of next year. She also said that everyone is pushing to get the project done on time.
The location will also be open to the public.
“Our chapel will be open 24/7,” Francis said. “It's always available for people to come and pray. There will be programs for people to come, and we have five services a day. Anyone is welcome to come and pray with us. We do spiritual direction, and we will also have a small guesthouse for people out of town. Those nearby can come and spend the day, then leave if they would like. We want to be a house of prayer for everyone. We are Episcopalian, but we hope to get to know people of other houses of prayer in North Augusta. We've been in the CSRA since 1960, but we are hoping to make new friends in North Augusta and Aiken.”
As far as why the location was chosen, Francis said that even though they have to move across state lines (from Augusta to North Augusta), it was an easy decision.
“It's a place that has a sense of prayerful quiet,” she said. “We're hoping to maybe get some walking paths in the woods. The location has a very peaceful spirit, and it felt right.”
For more information on The Order of Saint Helena, visit www.osh.org.
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at The North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since 2013.