NORTH CHARLESTON — Second graders and senior citizens swapped stories and sang hymns in a long-awaited face-to-face gathering at Echo House recently.
Each year, students from Charleston Catholic exchange names and photos with a prayer partner at the center, which is a social service program sponsored by the Diocese of Charleston that provides a variety of activities and meals for its members. The pupils spend the year sending letters, cards and crafts to their special person.
Sister Margaret Mary Faist, a Sister of Notre Dame, who runs the program at the school, said the children look for any reason to send something to their elderly friends.
“They feel really connected to that person,” she said.
Likewise, the members of Echo House enjoy the students.
“We just love the little children,” said Inez Singleton. “It’s the best thing for us. It carries our minds away to the nice things we enjoyed with our children, and when they were grown, our grandchildren.”
Singleton has worked at Echo House for more than 40 years and is the assistant to Franciscan Sister Colleen Waterman, the center’s director. At 86, she also participates in the activities and this year was a prayer partner with two second-graders. She said the children are a highlight to their year.
Sister Colleen said the program started five years ago at the initiation of Sister Margaret Mary and a student whose grandmother was a member of Echo House.
“It’s really been a marvelous thing,” Sister Colleen said. “They look forward to this all year long.”
After corresponding during the school year, the two sides finally meet one another in May. First, the children find their prayer partner, and then they spend an hour or so talking about their families, pets, hobbies and anything else that enters their minds.
They also sing songs and have lunch provided by the seniors.
Before they leave, each child receives a hand-made crucifix from Samuel Holmes, 86, who crafts them in a variety of colors and paints them to glow in the dark.
“The letters that come back to Sammy are just beautiful,” Sister Colleen said. “He looks forward to them so much.”
She hopes the prayer partner program will continue with the new second-grade teacher at Charleston Catholic. Sister Margaret Mary is moving to New Orleans to teach at St. Leo the Great, which has been closed since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.