The Marian shrine in Kingstree, S.C., honors Mary with two titles: the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina and Our Lady of Joyful Hope.
This shrine, founded in 2006, is the official shrine of the Charleston Diocese, which encompasses the entire state. But even more than just for one state, it’s a sign of hope in today’s world.
There is no apparent history of a devotion to Our Lady of Joyful Hope in the Church, Bishop Robert Baker told me. The shrine was established while he was bishop of Charleston.
Veneration of Our Lady of Hope does date to the 10th century, but “Joyful” adds a new dimension. A special icon was created to illustrate the title.
“We came up with an icon created for this devotion of Our Lady holding both a rosary and Christ her son in terms of the Eucharist,” he said. “This was inspired by Pope John Paul II’s strong emphasis on the Eucharist and his Year of the Rosary.”
“If our hope is certain, we have a joyful hope,” Father Stanley Smolenski, the shrine’s director, told us. John Paul II said the faithful have “a certain hope” and Benedict said ours is “a trustworthy hope” because it’s based on the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
“Mary gives us this certain, trustworthy hope because she brings us to her son, Our Lord,” Father Smolenski explained. “We can be assured of our hope. So, she gives us joyful hope.”
In 2007, Bishop Baker blessed the seven-foot tall marble statue of Our Lady of South Carolina, Mother of Joyful Hope in the shrine’s outdoor grotto as his last official act before leaving for his appointment as ordinary of the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala.
A plaque in this grotto reads: “Leave Your Burdens Here.”
Near the chapel’s entry, the statue of Mary in a small brick grotto has local roots. The statue was originally part of the outdoor chapels one priest set up more than 50 years ago as catechetical centers for area field hands.
Back then, a Dominican priest also had a Kingstree apostolate to introduce people to Catholicism. Providentially, as a young brother in discernment, Father Smolenski helped with this evangelization effort — and received his vocation to the priesthood.
Eucharistic and Marian
The particular charism of the shrine is Eucharistic and Marian. Two of the three spiritual pillars of the shrine rest upon John Paul II’s 2002 apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Most Holy Rosary), in which he teaches, “Mary leads us to discover the secret of Christian joy,” and his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church), in which he unites Mary to this mystery in the chapter “At the School of Mary, ‘Woman of the Eucharist.’”
The shrine just predated its third foundation pillar: Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi (On Christian Hope), in which he asks, “Who more than Mary could be a Star of Hope for us?” and pleads, “Teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you.”
Outside of the shrine, on a sign, visitors see the shrine’s logo announcing its charism: a rosary encircles the hands of a priest holding the Eucharist.
Help From St. Joseph
Father Smolenski, a Baptistine hermit (a vocation which places him exclusively at the service of this shrine and its pilgrims), enlisted St. Joseph’s help to find the location. Joseph had to find homes for Jesus and Mary in Bethlehem, Egypt and Nazareth, so it’s no surprise he led Father Smolenski to St. Ann Church, whose 45 families were about to vacate this small edifice and move to a larger building they were buying in town as their new St. Ann’s.
The white walls call to mind the purity of Mary and help to draw attention to the icon’s prominence in the sanctuary above the tabernacle.
Some of the furnishings have historical significance, and others are originals from Europe. The shrine has several icons that reflect the mysteries of the Rosary.
“There is a scriptural message from Our Lady that can be considered as directing the work of the shrine,” says Father Smolenski: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). “At Cana, ‘he’ meant Jesus, but now it can also mean the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ: ‘Do whatever the Pope tells you.’ Thus the ministries of the shrine follow the magisterial directives of the Church.”
The shrine is growing as an evangelization center, and it is already prophetically fulfilling Benedict XVI’s 2009 directive: “May all Christians, filled with joyful hope and following the example of Mary, be faithful to God’s grace and seek a life of holiness.”
Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.
Shrine of Our Lady
of South Carolina, Our Lady of Joyful Hope
330 E. Main St.
(Mailing address: 300 Ashton Ave., Kingstree, S.C. 29556)
Planning Your Visit
The shrine is on Highway 261, just 30 miles from Interstate 95. To schedule a Mass or a recollection day, or to order icon prints, call (843) 355-3527.