Building begins on new Felician Center in Kingstree

KINGSTREE—A new era for the Felician sisters’ in Kingstree started with the Nov. 29 groundbreaking of a large Felician Center on Thorne Street.


The 4,925-square-foot building will include an expanded food pantry and clothing closet, a central food service and dining space, offices and a special kitchen classroom for a “Kids Cuisine” program that teaches proper nutrition and cooking skills.

City officials, state legislators, members of the community, and nine Felician sisters from Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois and Wisconsin attended the event, led by Father Stanley Smolenski, director of the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina — Our Lady of Joyful Hope in Kingstree.

Father Mathew Bulala, pastor of St. Ann Church, blessed the site.

Chuck Bilding of Kingstree designed the new center, with construction by Fields Construction of Florence. The goal is to complete the project by June 2012.

The Felicians’ work in Kingstree started 20 years ago when Sisters Susane Dziedzic and Johnna Ciezobka arrived in Williamsburg County, one of the poorest in the state. Today, they work with Sister Jacqueline Benbenek to serve people of all ages drawn to the center by hard economic times.

In 2010, the current center served 1,200 hot meals through the Blessed Angela meal program, 40 children participated in the after-school tutoring program, and more than 500 families in Kingstree and nearby Lake City received emergency food packages. The sisters also offer clothing to the needy, provide classes and activities, make home visits, and offer assistance with prescriptions, eye and dental care, and home repair.

“It’s been a long time coming and it’s going to be a new beginning for us,” said Sister Johnna. “I’m happy to be through all the paperwork and see something coming out of that ground.”

Sister Susane, director of the center, said the ministry has grown and succeeded because of support from the diocese and the community, especially local government and area churches.

“This has really gone from being just a Kingstree mission to a Williamsburg County project,” she said. “It’s pretty humbling. The reason this is all happening is the community has responded to what we are doing.”

Sister Mary Christopher Moore, provincial minister of the Felicians, said the Kingstree project is a great example of their charism to serve the poor and marginalized.

“All of our sisters really affirm this ministry, want to support it and see it continue to grow,” she said. “It’s a major accomplishment that these sisters have brought so many people together to help the poor.”

Sister Johnna hopes the new building will open for business in July. The current center will be used for tutoring and other educational programs.