By NANCY SCHWERIN
MONCKS CORNERS With more than 2,000 people covering the grounds at Our Lady of Mepkin Monastery, it was apparent that support for the Cistercian-Trappists is tremendous. Berkeley County residents pitched in to help and were invited to support their neighbors on their 50th anniversary.
The local Boy Scout troop directed cars to a parking spot on the land that rests peacefully on the Cooper River. The abbey was established in 1949 on property donated by the publisher and philanthropist, Henry R. Luce, and his wife, the Honorable Clare Boothe Luce. Based on its order’s 900-year-old tradition, the monks are committed to a life of prayer, study, manual labor, and hospitality.
Father Francis Kline, abbot of Mepkin, thanked the community residents for 50 years of support. “You were always kind and courteous, as is the Southern way,” said Father Kline. Even though only one monk is from the Lowcountry and few are from the South, Father Kline said, “We have tried to be good neighbors and good Southerners.”
The abbot expressed his awe that with little advertising or publicity so many came to share in the anniversary. “It is always through music and the praise of God that people come together,” he said.
Choirs from Moncks Corner Methodist, Presbyterian and First Baptist Churches, Redeemer Church of Pineville, Trinity Episcopal of Pinopolis, and The Nazareth R.E. and Grace R.E. Churches sang throughout the day, joining the monks who took their turn in the spotlight singing hymns.
Story stations, staffed by local experts, were set up across the grounds. The tales shared the centuries-old history of the Mepkin property, including the history of the Wadboo Barony, the Laurens and Luce families, the African-American community, the development of the Luce Gardens, and the monastic community’s own history.
The Berkeley County Historical Society shared the land’s historical significance, and representatives from the S.C. Institute of Anthropology and Archeology discussed the Underwater Heritage Trail, including the two sites visible off Mepkin’s shoreline. Revolutionary War artifacts recovered in underwater excursions were displayed.
On an ordinary day this serene piece of land shares its history with the occasional sightseer, but on this day picnickers lounged in the shade, walked the historic grounds and basked in the sun. “The place looks good covered with people,” mused Father Kline.
In their usual tradition the Trappists mingled with their guests sharing laughter and a kind word on a less-than-ordinary day that was a great start to the next 50 years.