EDISTO ISLAND—People who attend Sts. Frederick and Stephen Mission on this quiet island say the small Catholic community of 41 households is like a family.
Everyone must do their part to keep things running each day, and they help each other when in crisis. Just ask Lee Wenthe, who has attended Mass at the mission since the ’60s.
In September she fell and broke her ankle during a trip to Georgia.
“My husband [Jim] went to Mass that Sunday and everybody asked where I was,” she said. “He told them what happened, and we did not cook for three weeks. People didn’t just bring us a meal, they brought us three or four days’ worth of food. They came to visit, brought books and magazines, called to see if I was OK. This isn’t unusual. It happens anytime someone at the church has an illness. I thank God almost every night that I have found such a wonderful parish family.”
Nearly everyone volunteers their time in some capacity. Frank and Adelaide Leavens are extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, and he serves on the building committee. They help count collection money and compile the weekly bulletins for the mission and St. Mary Church on neighboring Yonges Island. Father Antony Benjamine serves as administrator of both.
Mrs. Leavens helps set up for daily and Sunday Masses, and frequently brings home altar cloths and other items to be laundered.
“There’s never a dull moment because we have to rely on our regular parishioners to do all the different tasks that have to be done, to get everything organized so Masses can run smoothly,” Mr. Leavens said. “It’s a friendly group of people.”
Since many members are working couples or retirees, even altar servers are part time. One family with a home on the island visits about once every three weeks, and then their 11-year-old son serves as an altar boy.
Members also take an active role in daily life on Edisto. They regularly take part in community gatherings and activities with other churches on the island and help with outreach projects. St. Frederick’s annual oyster roast is a popular draw.
Mr. Leavens said plans are underway for a larger worship space to serve the permanent members and the many visitors who come during summer months and holidays. The building plan needs approval from the diocese. No amount of growth, members say, will disrupt the strong feeling of community.