HARDEEVILLE—The once abandoned Mercy Ministries Thrift Store in Hardeeville was given new life when Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone blessed Catholic Charities’ newly acquired building, renaming it the Mercy Mission and making a dying religious sister’s last wish become a reality.
Located at 19869 Whyte Hardee Boulevard on S.C. 170 in Jasper County, the thrift store was once managed by Sisters Mary Gallagher and Lupe Stump, of the Sisters of Mercy. They died in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
“Sister Lupe’s very last words to me were of concern that the Mercy Mission continue to serve the poor as a diocesan mission,” said Msgr. Ronald Cellini, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton. He is one of the community leaders helping to raise the $220,000 needed to refurbish the dilapidated building that fell into disrepair after the sisters died.
Construction will begin before the end of the year on the 6,000-square-foot space, which will house the Lowcountry regional offices of Catholic Charities, plus Our Lady’s Pantry featuring storage facilities for healthy foods, offices for immigration services and a retail thrift store to generate revenue and provide low-cost furniture, appliances and clothing.
Eric Phillips, the newly hired bilingual regional coordinator of Catholic Charities of the Lowcountry, will work at the mission alongside many volunteers. In the future, a ‘Clean of Heart’ center will be added to provide showers and laundering facilities for the homeless.
Bishop Guglielmone explained that the mission will serve people regardless of their faith.
“We must reach out to people in need, not just to those from our own faith. We will help them not because they are Catholic, but because we are Catholic,” he said.
The bishop was joined at the event by many of the mission’s former volunteers who worked side by side with the Sisters of Mercy and the Knights of Columbus.
The bishop’s blessing comes as the Jubilee Year of Mercy called for by Pope Francis draws to a close on Nov. 20.
“It is very fitting that the bishop has blessed this building before the end of the Year of Mercy, since Sisters Lupe and Mary who ran the mission were both Sisters of Mercy,” Msgr. Cellini said.
“It is a much-needed resource for the community,” said Margie Tomczak, a Holy Family parishioner who has been traveling the Lowcountry to educate people about the work the mission did and to raise funds for its refurbishment and re-opening.
According to the 2010 census, 25.5 percent of Jasper County families live below the poverty line. The closest Catholic Charities immigration office is located on Hilton Head Island, a 25 mile drive, often impossible for the poor. Tomczak cites the impressive fundraising efforts of Areli Fernandez, who has raised $6,000 for the mission through her work with La Isla magazine.
For more information about the Mercy Mission, visit www.charities sc.org/the-mercy-mission.
BY ROSE EWING | SPECIAL TO THE CATHOLIC MISCELLANY
Photo/Miscellany/Nic Pilch: Msgr. Ronald Cellini, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton, honors the final wish of the late Sisters of Mercy for their outreach to continue at the blessing of Mercy Mission in Hardeeville on Nov. 6.