Parish honors principal at reception at new life center

MOUNT PLEASANT — The Catholic Community Life Center at Christ Our King Parish was opened Aug. 11 for its first official event, a reception honoring Our Lady of Mercy Sister Stella Maris Craven. The banquet hall at the center was filled with parishioners who came to congratulate the sister on 50 years of religious life.

“Her dedication to her community and to God have always been an inspiration to me,” said Jimmy Craven, the nun’s brother. Her sister also traveled from Tennessee to celebrate.

Sister Stella Maris, who spent the last 22 years as principal at Christ Our King-Stella Maris School, said she first felt a calling to religious life at around age 10.

“I wanted to be sure I’d get to heaven,” she said.

Since entering the convent, the sister has worked tirelessly in schools across the diocese.

The principal said she enjoys watching students grow and seeing their achievements.

More student action will happen with the addition of a gym at the new community life center. The parish building project includes new parish offices, meeting rooms, a banquet hall, a kitchen, preschool facilities, a gym, and classrooms for the after-school program.

The growth at Christ Our King-Stella Maris School has reflected the growth in the Mount Pleasant area. The school has planned accordingly. A school building project coincided with the life center and included a science lab, two nondesignated classrooms, and three pre-kindergarten classes.

Sister Stella Maris was involved in the planning stages of the projects. She is also handling the finances for the 39,000 square-foot parish project.

The life center is available to foremost the areas Catholic churches, but also to the community at large for renting the various meeting facilities.

“The satisfaction of being able to hold this event right here is hard to describe,” said Sue Dowd, development director. “So many people have put in their time and talent to allow us to close in on the $4 million needed to turn the ambitious dream into today’s reality.”

The community center was truly a community effort. Parishioners Frances Jones and Gene Knisley focused on raising funds, and Jones designed brochures for the effort. School Board president George Detyens and Board member William Roberts worked with architects and construction crews. Donny James coordinated other fund-raising efforts like commemorative bricks and a tree of life. Dowd said countless others tended to every detail from stuffing envelopes to decorating the halls.

“We have every expectation that we will end up with the 100 percent participation we need to achieve the last elusive 15 percent of our funding,” said the development director.

The center will be blessed by Bishop Robert J. Baker on Oct. 10.