Share this story

 | By Theresa Stratford

Lifting Hearts & Voices to God as Two Sumter Parishes Combine

To understand the joyous occasion of combining two parishes, we first have to understand their rich and plentiful pasts.

The history of the Catholic community in Sumter, South Carolina spans about 180 years. But the parishes of St. Anne and St. Jude, located a little over a mile away from each other, shaped the Catholic presence there.

According to the historical marker for St. Anne, Sumter County’s first Catholic church was built in 1838 on Providence Plantation near present day Dalzell. It was closed and then sold within a decade, and the proceeds were “invested in the future church of Sumterville.” The old Methodist church was purchased, remodeled and dedicated as a Catholic parish to St. Lawrence, the martyr. Members of St. Lawrence then laid the cornerstone for St. Anne in 1909, and its architecture was in the Gothic style boasting 45 stained glass windows. 

The worship space sustained significant damage from Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Another setback was the closing of its Catholic school, Holy Angels Academy, in 2022 due to declining enrollment.

St. Jude Church dates back to 1938, when it was formed to serve the African American Catholic community. The parish was built 10 years later in 1948. St. Jude has an extensive history in education, especially since it was the first Catholic high school in Sumter (1958). St. Jude was either the site for or was instrumental in sponsoring many education initiatives, including a nursery for infants and toddlers that opened in 1966 and a program for mentally and physically challenged children that opened in 1971. It was called the Sumter Developmental Learning Center. 

Combining St. Anne and St. Jude began in the mid- to late-1990s. Factors that led to this merger came from long-range planning and evaluation of the facilities at the two locations, projected growth in the Catholic population and predicted priest shortages.

Adorno Father Giovannie Nunez, pastor of St. Anne and St. Jude since 2017, pointed out that segregation was the reason.

“St. Jude was predominantly Black and St. Anne was predominantly Anglo. There was a need to bring everyone together. Sumter is a large county, but it does not have a large Catholic population. There was simply no need to have separate parishes anymore,” he said. Once the parishes officially combined he said that they held Masses at different times at the two churches so that they could be served by the same priest, and then the finances were also combined into one office.

In the late 1990s, the long-range planning committee at St. Jude was offered a real estate opportunity of 192 acres on Beckwood Road. The property was purchased by a group of parishioners and the site was dedicated by former Bishop Robert J. Baker in 2003 for the future St. Anne and St. Jude.

The Catholic communities launched a capital campaign in 2005 and raised $2.4 million in a little over five years. In 2010, the Catholic Community of Sumter was established through the merger and consolidation of the two churches by then-Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone. By 2016, he issued a decree that the community would be “placed under the patronage” of St. Anne and St. Jude and the two were officially combined under this name.

In February of 2018, Bishop Guglielmone approved the request to build the new worship space at the Beckwood Road property. The parish began another fundraising campaign, which netted $2.2 million. The new $6 million church was built with funds from the two campaigns plus a small loan from the Diocese of Charleston.

St. Anne and St. Jude broke ground in January 2022 and by Easter Sunday 2023, construction of the 10,000 square-foot church was complete. The new church and altar were dedicated June 2 of this year by Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune, CS.

The combined parish has about 800 families, and Father Nunez said that the new church can hold 400 people at a time, which is perfect for the various Mass times. He explained that the old St. Jude building is under contract to be sold, and for the time being, they will use the former St. Anne for early education classes and youth ministry. 

“The new church is now our main campus,” Father Nunez said. “We will keep St. Anne’s temporarily at this time since there is plenty of room to expand at the new site,” which will eventually include office spaces, classrooms and a fellowship hall.

“It is a moment that has been long awaited, envisioned over 20 years ago, and now finally realized,” Father Nunez said at the dedication. “We stand here as witnesses to the fulfillment of a dream, bringing together the collective efforts of so many dedicated individuals. 

“Our new church is not only a physical structure but also a spiritual haven where we can collectively lift our hearts and voices to God, seek to do his will and thereby receive his peace and become nourished by his grace, love and mercy. St. Anne and St. Jude are always praying for us all before the throne of Jesus, our eucharistic Lord, savior and king. May our new church be a sanctuary where all are welcomed, accepted and loved,” the pastor said.

Theresa Stratford is a freelance writer for The Miscellany. She lives in Charleston with her husband and three children and attends the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Email her at