BY BRIAN FAHEY
From 1931 to 1967, the Diocese of Charleston had a summer place to keep energized children out of their parents’ hair and offer catechists a chance to instruct. Camp St. Mary’s, a children’s summer camp near Bluffton, was the diocese’s answer to parents’ and pastors’ prayers.
Father James S. Linehan, assistant pastor of St. Peter Parish in Beaufort, organized the first campsite in 1929. He founded Camp St. Mary’s at the home of William E. Pinckney, at Guerard’s Point on the Okatee River. His intention was to offer intense religious instruction to children from the remote areas of the parish who could not otherwise receive catechetical training.
Classes were held outdoors, under the trees. Girls slept in the Pinckneys’ home, while boys slept in tents. Despite the spartan accommodations, the number of attendants was impressive and convinced Bishop Emmet Walsh to expand the camp’s scope and enrollment.
In 1931, Bishop Walsh adopted Camp St. Mary’s as a diocesan project and appointed diocesan Chancellor Father Henry E. Wolfe as the camp director. The new administration, including the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, set out to improve the campus.
In 1935 the camp moved to a newly purchased site across the Okatee. The new campus included barracks for girls and boys, a mess hall, a chapel, and a convent. In that same year, succeeding director Father Alfred F. Kamler introduced a three-week recreational camp that followed the religious course of instruction.
Attendance continued through the difficult days of the Great Depression and World War II, but waned during the 1960s. Camp St. Mary’s closed in 1967.
Brian Fahey is the archivist for the Diocese of Charleston.