CHARLESTON—The Daughters of St. Paul are a relatively new order dating back to 1915. They can be found in over 30 nations and are involved in every aspect of the communications ministry.
The sisters came to Charleston in 1985 after persuasive letters and phone calls from Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler. Sister Jane Raphael Livingston said she was a novice at the time and remembers packing the truck for the sisters who made the journey from Boston, Mass., to evangelize in the South.
When they arrived, what would become Pauline Books and Media Center on King Street was a mess, said Sister Jane, who is now the group’s mother superior.
While the space was being renovated, the sisters lived at St. Katharine Drexel Residence on Wentworth Street. They traveled with a priest to parish missions and shared the Gospel through a bookmobile.
Sister Clare Stephen Kralovic said she has heard stories from area Catholics who remember buying their first Bible from the bookmobile set up in front of Condon’s Department Store.
Condon’s and the bookmobile are both gone, but the Daughters remain, living and working in what is much more than a bookstore. Sister Jane calls it “the walk-in clinic of the soul.”
Visitors to the store are directed to their area of need, but the sisters don’t wait for people to come to them.
Sister Clare, outreach coordinator, schedules a multitude of events across five states: South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. They offer conferences and convocations, visit parishes and sponsor book fairs.
Pauline Books and Media Center itself is also a hub of activity, with groups coming in for book club, adoration, faith and fellowship, or just to talk, Sister Jane said.
One of the most popular gatherings is the weekly SpiritualiTea. (Click here for related article) The student-led discussions are wide-ranging, and Sister Jane said she participates to raise awareness about issues in the wider world.
“It all stems from that little corner spot on King Street,” she said. “People just don’t know what all goes on there.”
The Daughters of St. Paul will celebrate their 25th anniversary in Charleston this year and have scheduled evening Mass May 1 with Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
The sisters, who have been raising funds to pay for much-needed restorations on the store and living quarters, said they would love to have the project completed in time for their anniversary.
“I’m trusting that God knows our need,” Sister Jane said. “He’s got to help us out.”
She said the overhaul will cost $206,000, and so far they have enough for the first two installments. Their next fundraiser is a golf tournament at Wild Dunes, which they hope will enable them to start the restoration.
Meanwhile, Sister Clare and Sister Deborah Marie Dunevant, who is the assistant book manager, are making plans for the 25th celebration. It will include recognition of their founders and patron saint.
Father James Alberione founded the first congregation of the Pauline Family, the brothers and priests of the Society of St. Paul, in 1914 in Alba, Italy, to use the modern means of communications to spread the Gospel. The following year, along with Sister Thecla Merlo, he founded the Daughters of St. Paul.
Father Alberione died in 1971 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003.
Teresa Merlo was born in 1894 to a poor farming family in the countryside of Italy. She trained to be a seamstress, but when Father Alberione invited her to join his group of sisters in formation, she accepted immediately.
Her talents came in handy as the sisters’ first shop of religious articles and books was supported by a small sewing school. When the women took over the diocesan newspaper in Susa, Italy, they adopted St. Paul as their patron and became known as the Daughters of St. Paul.
When Teresa was 28, she took the name Thecla in honor of St. Thecla, an early follower of Paul. She was appointed superior general of the new community and expanded the order across Italy, with new foundations in Brazil, Argentina and the United States. She traveled around the world to establish the Daughters of St. Paul on every continent and remained Mother General until her death in 1964.