HOLLY HILL – “It’s like coming home again.” That’s how a parishioner described the April 23 Mass that celebrated the reopening of St. Ann Chapel. It was closed in 2002 because of extensive water damage and mold problems.
The history of St. Ann Chapel can be traced back to 1927, when Camilla Pearl Berry-Hutto was instrumental in establishing a chapel in Boyers. It was built to serve the many Catholics from Louisiana who had moved into the area to work in the lumber industry.
In 1945 the chapel was transferred to Holly Hill and dedicated as St. Ann Church. It was staffed by missionary priests from the Redemptorist order who operated out of Orangeburg. In January 1996, the Redemptorists handed over responsibility for St. Ann to the Diocese of Charleston.
Catholics in the Holly Hill area saw the chapel as their religious home for many years and wanted to save it because of the role it had played in their lives. With the permission of Bishop Robert J. Baker, a parish effort was organized to restore the building.
Rosemary Singletary headed the fund-raising drive. She said that St. Ann was known as “the little church with the big heart.” Judging from the generous outpouring of donations that she received, Singletary was convinced that the parishioners still had big hearts. She also received contributions from non-Catholics and from former parishioners, some of whom had moved hundreds of miles away.
A large portion of the financing for the restoration came from the wills of deceased parishioners Joe and Lily Kennerly. The couple operated a small grocery store in Holly Hill. The Kennerlys had no children, although Singletary described them as having enough love to raise 10 children. They left much of their estate to the parish.
Walter Hutto’s mother was a founding member of the parish. Hutto is a doctor of veterinary medicine in Holly Hill and has been a member of St. Ann for his entire life. He said that he had long expected to be buried from the parish, but almost lost hope because of the closing. He said it is a wonderful feeling to have the little church back.
The renovation project focused on improving water drainage around the chapel in order to prevent a repeat of the mold problem. Besides extensive cleaning and re-painting, interior repairs included refinishing the chapel’s beautiful oak floors.
In September 2004, Bishop Baker enlarged the boundaries of St. Ann Parish to encompass much of eastern Orangeburg County. A new parish church is being built in Santee. St. Ann Chapel will be used mainly for weddings, funerals, baptisms and weekday Masses.
Submitted by Father Thomas Kingsley, pastor of St. Mary-Our Lady of Hope, Summerton; St. Ann, Holly Hill; and Our Lady of Hope, Manning.