St. Mary Magdalene Child Development Center opens

SIMPSONVILLE – Once the Conner Ministries Center was complete and blessed by Bishop Robert J. Baker, parishioners of St. Mary Magdalene wasted no time putting it to use.

A grand opening for the St. Mary Magdalene Child Development Center is scheduled for Aug. 24. It is housed in the ministries building and in a new adjacent playground.

“We had no facilities previously, so this was our first opportunity,” said pastor, Father Herbert K. Conner, of the Society of African Missions. “We felt our people deserved it.”

What the people deserved is a morning school for children not old enough for conventional schooling. The center offers classes in music, gym, art, Spanish and other disciplines in a religion-based curriculum, according to Mary Lou Scott, director of the center.

“This is a mother’s morning out program,” Scott said. “It differs from day care. In fact, it’s a totally different atmosphere. Children don’t have to come here.”

Daycare is basically a baby-sitting service for working mothers; most operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Mary Magdalene Child Development Center was designed after a similar operation at Prince of Peace Catholic Church, which eventually evolved into a school, Scott said.

The Child Development Center operates from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is an actual school for two-, three- and four-year-olds.

“We’re going to teach them, so that they’ll be well-prepared for kindergarten,” said Deacon Matthew A. Mannino, who is the parish coordinator for the program. “We wanted the children of our parish to have a faith-based educational opportunity.”

That opportunity was suggested by Scott and approved by Father Conner, whom Deacon Mannino called “ahead of his time.” It took three months to get the plans approved, staff trained and facilities up to regulations. And it took money.

Father Conner admitted that the program was initially expensive. But he said, “We thought it was worth the investment.”

The parish plans for the Child Development Center to be self-supporting eventually, even though fees are a fraction of daycare: $135 a month for two-year-olds (two days a week), $165 for threes (three days a week) and $195 for fours (five days a week). Daycare fees in Greenville County run from $75 per week to $100 per week. The costs and the concept have proved popular, with most classes at capacity before the center opened.

The whole parish is ecstatic about it,” Deacon Mannino said.

The grand opening of the Mary Magdalene Child Development Center will follow the 11 a.m. Mass at the large (1400 families) and growing suburban parish.