Those of us born and reared in urban areas, where churches are easily accessible and mass is said frequently during the day, cannot imagine the extreme difficulties - and real hazards - of getting from Edisto Island to Yonges Island to attend St. Mary's Catholic Church in the 1930's. Except for the Catholic families vacationing at Edisto Beach during the summer months, only one or two families (the Flowers families) lived on Edisto Island year-round.
The parishioners had to leave very early in order to reach St. Mary's
over dirt roads made hazardous with holes and ruts, and the Dawhoo
Bridge and other bridges, wooden and only a single lane for automobile
traffic. The Dawhoo Bridge at the time was a manually operated swing
bridge on which a large crank was turned by a single man to open the
channel to boats. This was a very slow process.
With gasoline scarce during World War II, Bishop M. M. Walsh agreed to appoint a priest for Sunday mass. This began the custom of having mass in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Herlihy on Edisto Beach, and later, in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Flowers. Around 1954, when the worshippers outgrew the Herlihy and Flowers homes, Mr. Herlihy gave a civic building to the Lions Club of Edisto Beach with one proviso: that it be available to all denominations to worship on Sunday. Unfortunately, a priest would only travel to Edisto to say mass at the Lions Club during the season, and during the off-season, Catholics would still be forced to drive to St. Mary's.
As time went on, it became apparent that the civic building could not meet the needs for space and permanence that the Catholic community needed in order to grow. Although land had previously been given by Mr. Stephen Flowers, Sr. for a church site on Edisto Beach, the need for more space made it necessary to build on Highway 174 on Edisto Island. After more than 40 years, a building was erected; and on August 26, 1979, Bishop Ernest Unterkoefler dedicated the Catholic Church of Saint Frederick and Saint Stephen, appropriately named in memory of Steve Flowers and Frederick Herlihy, two men who, in concert, represented the spirit of the Catholic faith on Edisto Island.
Recently, the parish was granted permission by the Diocese of Charleston
to establish a building fund and begin the process of constructing a new
church building. The vision is specifically intended to be a small country
church that will be in keeping with the style of existing churches on the island.
The new church will be built on the existing property, slightly east of the
present building. The parish also hopes to obtain permission to dedicate a
small cemetery in the back corner of the property. The congregation welcomes
the community to stop by and view the conceptual rendering of the design on
display in the current church.
Pastor Rev. Antony Benjamine and the congregation are confident that the addition of a more traditional worship space will enhance the Catholic community on Edisto Island.