Groundbreaking in Santee

SANTEE — The growing Catholic community of this lake district ended a long pursuit when it broke ground during a celebratory event on July 28.

“We’ve been without a church building for 20 years,” said St. Ann parishioner Caroline Genewick. “We’re happy just to get a church.”

Parish members have been participating in Saturday vigil Mass and Sunday Mass at a room in the nearby outlet mall, Genewick said. The new building will be half dedicated sanctuary and half all-purpose room with kitchen facilities, according to building committee member Beverly J. Swaim.

“It will be a 50 by 100 building and will seat 200,” Swaim said. “We’re growing and are up to about 90 families now.”

Swaim predicted that more families will join the parish as soon as the new building is ready. “Some folks have been waiting for a building and others for a permanent priest.”

Genewick admitted that worshipping in the current borrowed facilities is a less than amenable arrangement.

“It sometimes doesn’t feel like church, especially having to kneel on a concrete floor. People can get discouraged,” she said.

Parishioners have responded generously to a building pledge drive and have even made plans for a formal church, separate from the building for which they broke ground. No timeline has been set for that building, however.

One parishioner donated enough money for the parish to purchase 10 acres of land. The Diocese of Charleston bought 10 adjacent acres.

St. Ann is in the Midlands Deanery, about 30 miles from Holy Trinity Parish in Orangeburg. Located near the banks of Lake Marion, Santee draws many retirees. Those older parishioners are augmented by younger families from the Holly Hill area, Genewick said.

The new pastor, Father Thomas Kingsley, also has administrative and sacramental duties at St. Mary in Summerton and at St. Mary-Our Lady of Hope Mission in Manning.

St. Ann is technically still a mission of St. Mary also.

Official estimates are for the St. Ann building to be ready by Christmas, Swaim said, but she thinks a more realistic goal may be Easter 2006.

Either way, the parishioners of St. Ann have been waiting so long for a church of their own that they are glad just to get construction started.