Local Catholic store opens doors to share faith to wider community
GASTONIA — On a busy road near St. Michael Church in Gastonia, a new bookstore has made its home. The small painted brick building is unassuming from the outside, yet is a sanctuary of warmth and quality Catholic merchandise inside.
Owners Kristen Levine and Pam Bennett have been friends since they both moved to the area and began attending St. Dorothy Church in Lincolnton more than 10 years ago. Now, Levine resides in Cherryville and Bennett in Kings Mountain, and both make the short trip to Gastonia to run Seven Gifts Ltd. in this centralized location.
Seven Gifts Ltd., which had been operating online and through the pair's travels, had its grand opening in July. They started out, according to Levine, traveling with merchandise to different churches and events to provide quality Catholic merchandise, because "there were so few Catholic stores." Their first event was the Diocese of Charlotte Eucharistic Congress in 2010, after which their parish offered them a "little cabinet" to display their items at St. Dorothy's parish office. Last year, they noted a building for rent and after purchasing it, began the renovation process to open a full-sized shop location.
The "catalyst" for them to open the shop came following a retreat with St. Dorothy parishioners to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Ala.
"We had a life-changing experience," Bennett said. "When you're spending all that time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, (it's) soul-cleansing. We came back and we were different."
Levine noted, "It became even more imperative to be able to find those things that we'd had such a struggle finding. To bring our faith into our families and have it surrounding our children – to incorporate it fully."
Bennett agreed that they wanted to share some of the beautiful things they had learned about Catholicism with "other families, other mothers like us, to make it available.
"There is so much richness and beauty in our faith – we wanted to share that."
Seven Gifts Ltd. carries religious items and art made by local artists, recognizing that "we're all to join together for Christ," and hoping their shop can help, in some way, to strengthen that unity, Bennett said.
As a part of its mission to make Catholic resources more widely available, Seven Gifts Ltd. is also hosting various Catholic speakers "as a way to explore your faith in another avenue, and bringing your faith community into your lives," Levine said.
That's one of the most significant aspects of their mission that the owners say they hope will welcome the local community into their shop. The first speaker was Sally Thomas, a home-school advocate and author featured in "First Things" and on EWTN. Upcoming speakers include Jackie Childers, an advocate for Rachel's Vineyard, who will speak about "Post-Abortion Testimony and Healing" at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2. (Seating for the speakers' series is limited, so RSVP to 704-271-4149.) Other speakers who will be featured in the coming months include Father Raymond Burke and Dr. Ron Thomas, Levine said.
Bennett noted, "God wanted us to do this. We were called to do this. But what He needs us to do, and how He may use us to touch the lives of another person, may never include a sales transaction. It's not about what we're selling, it's about the message. It's His store."
Visit www.sevengiftsltd.com online or the store located at 1200 S. York Road in Gastonia.
— Morgan Castillo, correspondent
Pictured: Kristen Levine and Pam Bennett recently opened Seven Gifts Ltd., a new Catholic book store, in Gastonia. (Morgan Castillo | Catholic News Herald)