St. Cyprian parishioners say good-bye to Sister Driscoll

GEORGETOWN — Sister Kathleen Driscoll, a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, will leave St. Cyprian Parish a much different place than it was when she arrived 10 years ago. But don’t expect her to take much credit.

“I want to make it clear that everything that happened in the last 10 years at St. Cyprian didn’t happen because of me,” Sister Driscoll said. “God put me in the right place at the right time to call forth the parishioners, volunteers and benefactors, who used their God-given talents and pitched together to contribute to the building up of the ministries and the service to persons who are poor at St. Cyprian. Community works.”

Sister Driscoll arrived at St. Cyprian in July 1994 after other sisters from her order had performed a thorough assessment of the parish and the surrounding Georgetown community. She was appointed parish life facilitator and was assigned to support the parish and develop an outreach center.

The first program Sister Driscoll initiated was the after-school homework program for neighborhood children in first through sixth grades. Approximately 35 to 40 children at any given time are supervised and assisted with their homework as necessary. Each child in the program finishes the day’s homework on site. To the best of Sister Driscoll’s knowledge, every child who has participated in the program has remained in school.

Sister Driscoll also started the ClothesCloset 10 years ago. She began by requesting donations of clothing, household items, and furniture. The ClothesCloset is open once a week on Wednesday, and clothing and household items are given away to the needy. Once a month, a needy family who has been screened can choose a new outfit for every member, at no charge. Twice a month the ClothesCloset sells clothing and household goods to the general public. Profits are used to assist local residents with rent, utilities, food, and medicine. The ClothesCloset made a profit of $12,000 the last fiscal year.

Sister Driscoll is particularly proud of the ClothesCloset Christmas sale. All new donated merchandise, particularly clothing and toys, is set aside for the special Christmas sale the first Friday of December. Items are priced from 25 cents to a maximum of three or four dollars.

She said that shoppers “can buy new stuff for their kids for Christmas. They don’t have to worry about going into debt.”

Sister Mary Carroll Eby, also a Daughter of Charity, is the coordinator of outreach services. She assesses all requests for assistance and takes written applications, which she records on a computer. She also coordinates distribution of Thanksgiving baskets. Last year, 182 people were assisted at Thanksgiving, and 59 food baskets were distributed. Georgetown Hospital and the steel mill donate much of the food for Thanksgiving outreach.

Sister Driscoll initiated Cyp and Chat about seven years ago to serve a hot meal to the local needy during the winter months when many were unemployed. About four years ago, she was instrumental in turning over administration of Cyp and Chat to Friendship Place. Edward Henry, a St. Cyprian parishioner, began with Cyp and Chat as a volunteer chef. He is now the only paid employee and supervises a volunteer crew of more than 40 people who serve lunch five days a week all year long. More than 19,000 lunches were served between July of last year and June of this year.

The Georgetown area, like many in South Carolina, has acquired a significant Hispanic population in recent years. Sister Driscoll began outreach to the Hispanic community five years ago and turned it over to Sister Sandra Parra about a year ago. Sister Parra, a native of Mexico, belongs to Hermanas del Corazon de Jesus Sacramentado (the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus).

Sister Driscoll said, “She has more energy and has really brought that community together.”

Sister Parra leads the Hispanic parishioners in major celebrations, including Our Lady of Guadalupe festivities and quinceañera, a coming of age ceremony for 15-year-old girls.

In the past year, Father Ronald J. Farrell, pastor of St. Cyprian and St. Mary, Our Lady of Ransom, has baptized 75 Hispanic children at St. Cyprian and recently performed the first wedding in the parish Hispanic community.

Four years ago, Sister Driscoll oversaw renovation of a vacant building on St. Cyprian property, using volunteers from St. Cyprian and Precious Blood of Christ Parish in Pawleys Island. More than 80 percent of the work was done by volunteers over the age of 65. The project took about seven months to complete, and the renovated building was dedicated in July of 2001.

“They paid us off with Oreo cookies and M&Ms,” volunteer George Hanson said.

Several other outreach organizations use space at St. Cyprian. Careteam, a ministry for people with AIDS / HIV, runs a satellite office once a week, and Birthright runs a crisis pregnancy center five days a week. HOST, an intervention program for truant children, also uses the site.

Sister Driscoll is leaving St. Cyprian at the end of October.

She said, “I had given it everything I had, and it was time for someone else to come in with a new look and a fresh vision and move the church and school forward.”

Sister Susan Pugh, also a Daughter of Charity, arrived in May to replace her.

Sister Driscoll will spend two months at St. Peter Claver Parish in Macon, Ga., assisting other sisters in her order. She anticipates that she will be visiting the elderly in their homes.

In January of next year, she will go to San Antonio for the Oblate School of Theology sabbatical program, Ministry to the Ministers. In May, she will return to her province, St. Joseph’s Provincial House in Emmitsburg, Md., for her next assignment. She does not know where she will be assigned next, and says it could be anywhere from Maryland to Florida.

The parish said good-bye to Sister Driscoll twice, with a reception Oct. 9 and a dinner Oct. 28.

“We’re going to miss her immensely,” parishioner Thomasina Fleming said. “What she’s accomplished since she’s been here is phenomenal.”