TRAVELERS REST — It’s only a 15-minute drive from the Poor Clares former monastery near a bustling Greenville neighborhood to their new one near Travelers Rest, but the contrast between the old and the new is as refreshing as moving from the city to the country.
Getting to the old monastery meant negotiating through traffic on a busy five-lane highway. But with the new location, the major concern comes primarily from the occasional squirrel scampering across McCauley Road, a winding two-lane highway that passes in front of the 14-acre monastery.
And word about the beautiful new Monastery of St. Clare is traveling around. Of the four open houses planned, two of them — one held in June and one scheduled for July 12 — are already full.
“We just want to have the opportunity to share our joy and our gratitude with all of the people who helped make this possible,” said Poor Clare Sister Nancy Shively.
The thought of moving out of their old monastery germinated more than four years ago, when “maintenance issues” began to plague the then 50-year-old building.
“We realized that we needed to do more than just fix this and fix that,” Sister Nancy said.
After hiring a consultant to advise them on what was needed at the old monastery, the sisters spent the next year praying over what they saw as two options: either make repairs and renovations on the Greenville site or begin looking for a new location.
A friend of the Poor Clares, who happened to work in real estate, kept an eye out for available land. But it was one of the newest members of the order who helped lead the sisters to their new home.
Sister Kathleen Ann Horvat, who made her solemn profession in April, enjoys bird watching. Three years ago, Sister Kathy Ann spent a day at the state-owned Bunched Arrowhead Heritage Preserve, which is named after the federally endangered plant called Bunched Arrowhead. Nestled on 179 acres northeast of Travelers Rest, it is where she saw a “for sale” sign on some land along McCauley Road, across from the preserve.
“We looked at the property and that’s how God led us here,” Sister Nancy said. “Sister Kathy Ann was God’s instrument in finding it.”
The sisters moved into the new monastery on April 29. To date, the Poor Clares have raised $4 million of the $5.5 million to pay off the loan needed to buy the land and build the new monastery.
Though it has slightly less square footage than the old building, the new one is all on one floor and is designed to use space more efficiently.
“Our older sisters have a much easier time navigating around the building and the halls here are much wider, and they can get around in walkers and wheelchairs,” Sister Nancy said.
There’s now a hospitality room where groups who are visiting for a day can meet; a chapel where people can gather for adoration and liturgical prayer, and an updated retreat house.
“We have a space now where we can welcome people and share our life with people in a way that we couldn’t before,” Sister Nancy said.
Approaching the parking lot of the new monastery, a visitor’s eye is drawn to the oval-shaped chapel. The inside of it offers a view of the bird sanctuary, Paris Mountain and a 300-year-old oak tree on the monastery grounds that was preserved.
The construction crew gave the tree a name befitting of its new neighbors: “Mother Treesa,” according to Sister Maryann Jenkins.
The new monastery has room for 18 members and is designed to allow for future growth, Sister Maryann said.
It also was designed and built to be energy-friendly.
“Stewardship of the Earth is an essential element of the Franciscan Clarian charism,” said Sister Kathleen DeLancey. In fact, the monastery building is certified by LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which, according to its Website, “encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building.”
Taken in total, the design and function of the new building, along with its setting, fit nicely with the Poor Clares’ mission, according to Sister Nancy.
“There’s something about being surrounded by beauty and quiet that adds to the contemplative dimension of our life,” she said.
The new monastery now offers eucharistic services every day at 9 a.m. Space is still available at two upcoming open houses, which will be held from 2-4 p.m. July 17 and at 9 a.m. Sept. 7.
To reserve a space at an open house
or learn more about the Poor Clares, call
(864) 834-8015 or visit www.poorclaresc.com.