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Blessing ceremony held for future site of Order of St. Helena covent

Posted: October 29, 2013 - 5:09pm
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Six-year-old Mary Caroline McDaniel of Edgefield, South Carolina touches the stones that were poured over with oil after a breaking ground ceremony at the new site for the Convent of St. Helena  in North Augusta, South Carolina on Saturday, October 26, 2013. Sara Caldwell/staff    Sara Caldwell
Sara Caldwell
Six-year-old Mary Caroline McDaniel of Edgefield, South Carolina touches the stones that were poured over with oil after a breaking ground ceremony at the new site for the Convent of St. Helena in North Augusta, South Carolina on Saturday, October 26, 2013. Sara Caldwell/staff

The Order of St. Helena will relocate from Augusta to North Augusta upon the completion of construction of its new site.

“We don’t want to feel that we’re leaving Augusta, but we’re getting to know North Augusta a little better,” said Sister Ellen Francis.

The order, which has about 15 sisters, was founded in 1945 and changed locations several times before settling in Augusta in 1960.

Saturday, a blessing of the land ceremony was held for the new convent, which will be located on about 28 acres on Savannah Barony Drive.

The property now has a building that will be renovated into a guest house with eight rooms. The order’s future home will also include a chapel, a living area for the sisters, adining area, kitchen, and meeting rooms.

“We are and want to become even more a house of prayer for all people,” said Sister Ellen Francis. “Absolutely anybody is welcome to come and be with us and have some rest time, retreat time. When people come to visit, they become a part of our life, our community. We welcome them to pray with us, eat with us.”

One of the unique things about the order is that it encourages individuality rather than conformity, said Sister Ellen Francis.

“From the beginning, we have valued the individual,” she said. “Each sister discerns which ministry she wants to do. We have a balanced life of both prayer and service.”

Construction will begin in January and should be completed in 2015.

“It’s very exciting for us,” she said. “The most important part is not the building itself. The process of designing a building and making decisions has also involved looking at our mission and our ministry. It’s not just about a building. It’s about who we are and who we are becoming and how we can be more a part of the community.”

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