Convent to open doors to 14 nuns

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By Christmas, the number of Episcopalian nuns living in Augusta will nearly triple.

The Order of Saint Helena can't afford to keep its two New York convents open, so the organization voted in Augusta to sell both.

The Augusta convent, established in 1962, will eventually close, too, as the nuns look for a new location to build one, larger facility. But that is likely at least five years away, said Sister Mary Lois, a nun from the Manhattan convent and a member of the order's leadership council.

The eight Augusta nuns are preparing for 14 nuns from the closing convents in Manhattan and the Hudson Valley.

To make room, the Augusta convent will close its guest house, a source of income for the nuns, who were hosts of spiritual retreats.

"It's going to affect many people throughout the Southeast," said Sister Cintra Pemberton, an Augusta nun and member of the leadership council.

She said the convent has guests most weeks.

The facility will still be available for daytime visitors, but all programs are canceled after Oct. 13 and refunds will be given.

The nuns say they are unsure what will happen to the New York properties.

They hope to preserve the land, especially the Vails Gate convent in the Hudson Valley, from development.

It'll be difficult to leave the Augusta convent -- a lush 26 acres of forest near the Green Meadows Country Club -- but the sisters feel the Holy Spirit leading them to another opportunity, Sister Pemberton said.

For several years, the order has faced an "increasingly serious budget deficit" while its numbers have also been in decline.

The convent receives no income from the Episcopal church, but is self-supporting, relying on donations, the guest ministry, honoraria from programs in the community, sisters who are salaried and a small endowment.

The decision, Sister Lois added, is more than eight years in the works.

"It took a long time to bring everybody on board," she said. "But in the last year, the market gave us a real reality check ... We live off of an investment portfolio, and while we've got good people to manage that, it wasn't enough."

The decision ultimately required a leap of faith, she said.

"In many ways it'll be a great joy to be together," Sister Lois said. "It was a logistical nightmare to get the three houses together. And now we'll be close -- very close."

Reach Kelly Jasper at (706) 823-3552 or kelly.jasper@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT IS THE ORDER?

The Order of Saint Helena is a religious group for lay and ordained women in the Episcopal Church. The community was founded in 1945, and it opened its convent in Augusta in 1962.

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Does_it_really_matter
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Does_it_really_matter 09/16/08 - 05:57 am
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God bless you all, Sisters.

God bless you all, Sisters. It must be a tough transition. But if the Holy Spirit led this move, you will all come out stronger in the end. I will pray for you all.

kai@reasontostand.org
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kai@reasontostand.org 09/16/08 - 07:00 am
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It's rather interesting how

It's rather interesting how the leading of the Holy Spirit follows so closely on the heels of financial hardship.

CKB
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CKB 09/16/08 - 07:23 am
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So very sad to hear the

So very sad to hear the convent here is going to close. I grew up not too far from there and the lights in the evening from the convent was such a peaceful sight on the way home from a long day. I will truly miss it. May the Peace be with all of the sisters there.

ctchpln
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ctchpln 09/16/08 - 07:34 am
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Thank you, sisters, for all

Thank you, sisters, for all your work. You are a blessing to many. And the convent will not completely close; it will be relocated.

LynxRHot
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LynxRHot 09/16/08 - 09:06 am
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I had no idea there was a

I had no idea there was a convent in Augusta, and I would have loved to visit it. Can someone tell me exactly where it is located?

The Knave
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The Knave 09/16/08 - 09:58 am
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Now where is the Sky Daddy

Now where is the Sky Daddy when you need him? How can he/she/it permit the nun's investment portfolio to under-perform their needs? What's a few hundred thousand or few hundred million dollars to an omnipotent, omniscient, omni-amorous Sky Daddy? I can hear the ole Holy Ghost now: "OK, ladies, Sky Daddy is a little short of cash right now, so y'all better make plans to consolidate your real estate holdings." (tax-exempt, by the way) ---- "I am surrounded by priests who repeat incessantly that their kingdom is not of this world, and yet they lay their hands on everything they can get." (Napoleon Bonaparte) ---- "What profit has not that fable of Christ brought us!" (Pope Leo X)

galaxygrl
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galaxygrl 09/16/08 - 10:15 am
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kai, perhaps the Holy Spirit

kai, perhaps the Holy Spirit will become part of your life. He is the Great comforter, the provider and Our father.

toppergem
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toppergem 09/16/08 - 10:18 am
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The convent is in South

The convent is in South Augusta off of Lumpkin Road in the Green Meadow Subdivision at the dead end of Eagle Drive. It is tucked in a little corner on the right side of the road. You would never know it was there unless you went looking for it.

FallingLeaves
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FallingLeaves 09/16/08 - 10:45 am
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Very good directions

Very good directions toppergem. I have visited there and love the sound of the bells. Too bad so many of their meditation walk's trees were cut down in error, illegally, a few years back. I wonder if they were ever compensated for them? The trees had cushioned the area from the noise from the nearby highway and Augusta Tech's buses as well as adding beauty to the acreage.

Edna
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Edna 09/16/08 - 11:41 am
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I remember driving up there

I remember driving up there to park my car and just relax when I was younger. It was so peaceful. Good luck to you all.

PillsburyDoughman
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PillsburyDoughman 09/16/08 - 05:58 pm
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Why will it leave Augusta?

Why will it leave Augusta? Obviously, it's best suited to stay here.

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