Since the 1960s, the convent of St. Helena has been tucked away up a hill in south Augusta. But, the nuns are preparing to move. They say by leaving this old property, they are making room for new growth.
As a place of prayer, this chapel has been the foundation upon which the nuns in the order of St. Helena have built their lives. "We do five services a day and we chant and four services of the divine office and the Eucharist," explains Sister Ellen Francis.
The Chapel stands on a little more than 20 acres of land that also holds a guest house and convent designed for six nuns. But, nearly fifty years after its construction, the order's population has more than doubled.
Once feared to be a dying group, the order has gotten new life through inquiries by younger women interested in further spreading the light that has been ignited through the nuns. Sister Ellen Francis says, "we see that there's a future for religious life that we have a very special role that we play in the church and in the world. We're excited about building the new convent but we're even more excited about the young people who are now coming and asking about vocation with us."
To accommodate their growth, the nuns have worked with architects to design a facility on 28 acres in North Augusta. The site will offer their typical amenities while providing a larger structure with room for growth. There's also space for the Order's cemetery which will make the move as well.
After ten years of patience, the nuns say the new property will be a pinnacle of prayer for the entire community. "We are above all a house of prayer for all people. We're open for anybody from any faith tradition to come," says Sister Ellen Francis.
While the move may seem unconventional, the Order of St. Helena has often broken boundaries in order to help build faith. So much so, they frequently use social media like Facebook to share their mission. "We're always broken ground. We're the first order to have ordained sisters," says Sister Ellen Stephen.
Now that their foundation has been poured in the local community, they hope this move will help them build a stronger structure of faith in the CSRA. "It took several years to get there but once we made the decision it was a call from God," adds Sister Ellen Francis.
The sisters say the move should be completed in about a year and a half. In South Augusta, Dee Griffin, WJBF News Channel 6
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