A work in progress|AmeriCorps tackles convent at SCHC

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 29, 2009

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps team leaders cleared fallen ceiling tiles and swept paint chips Tuesday morning to begin restoration of the Sisters of Mercy Convent.

The convent was built in 1868 and is now one building in the Southern Cultural Heritage Complex on Adams Street.

The Holy Cross Anglican Church rents the first floor chapel, which was refurbished in 2000, said Annette Kirklin, executive director of the Southern Culture Heritage Foundation, and parlors have also been refurbished, but upper floors of the convent have fallen into disrepair.

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“Many people in this town went to school here. Many hearts are still here,” Kirklin said.

The one-day project served a dual purpose of helping the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation prepare for future events and for training NCCC team leaders who arrived in Vicksburg July 6.

“The foundation recognized this as a need for the community. It’s certainly a worthwhile project that the community can benefit from,” AmeriCorps Community Relations Specialist Erika Roberts said of how the project reflects needs around the state. The national service program has a new base of regional operations in Vicksburg in the former All Saints’ Episcopal School complex.

The 20-person team of young adults from across the country attended a safety briefing before clearing debris from the second and third floors, Kirklin said.

Corps member Alec Bruns of Minneapolis said that when he arrived he saw hanging ceiling tiles and paint chips all over the floor. “In spite of all that, you can tell it used to be a pretty building,” he said. “I think the buildings are pretty gorgeous. It’s worthwhile to preserve buildings like this.”

The SCHF was created after the city’s purchase of the former Sisters of Mercy school and residential complex, which fills an entire city block, about 15 years ago. The foundation uses several of the buildings, especially the 1885 auditorium, for public programs, but has not determined a use for the convent building where the nuns had individual rooms.

The first Sisters of Mercy arrived in Vicksburg from Baltimore in 1860 and have maintained a presence since. In addition to St. Francis Xavier Academy in the complex, the nuns owned and operated Mercy Regional Medical Center until 1990.

The SCHF and NCCC hope to renovate the St. Francis Xavier Convent and Academy, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

An additional 144 Corps members will arrive at the former All Saints’ Episcopal School Friday to provide more help in serving the needs of communities specified by community-based organizations.


Contact Tish Butts at tbutts@vicksburgpost.com