Buchanan going from reluctant altar boy to diocesan priesthood


Scott James-Allen Buchanan did not attend Catholic grammar school, high school or college, and when his pastor wanted him to become an altar boy as a youth, he didn’t want to do it. But his mother insisted, and the experience changed his life forever.

On July 12, Deacon Scott Buchanan will be ordained a priest.

Since graduating from the College of Charleston in 1992 with a baccalaureate in history and philosophy, Buchanan has made up for the lack of Catholic schooling. He took on two years of theological training at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and has been enrolled at the Gregorian University in Rome for the past three years. He has earned an STB in theology from the pontifical university and will graduate with a licentiate in church history in 1998.

He will be authorized to teach both church history and theology. He is writing his thesis paper on “Catholics in the Carolinas and Georgia from 1670-1820,” and has been asked by the Bishop David Thompson to write a complete history of the church of Charleston. All that may have to wait.

“Based on what I’ve seen growing up with parish priests, what interests me most is dispensing the sacraments,” Buchanan said. “Anything academic will just be done in my spare time.”

And he does not anticipate having much of that. He said that he is impressed with the value of the laity’s role in the Catholic Church today and admits to being slightly concerned about the dilution of the pastoral aspect of the priest’s life as their numbers dwindle, but he has the examples of pastors he has known to guide him and expects to partake fully in parish life.

It wasn’t always that way for the young Scott Buchanan. When he was growing up in Blessed Sacrament parish in suburban Charleston, he was not even an altar boy.

“One day after Mass, Father (St. John E.) Patat said that he needed tall boys to carry the cross. I didn’t want to do it but my mother wouldn’t call to get me out of it. So I showed up and loved it. That’s how it all started,” Buchanan said.

He applied for the seminary after graduating from St. Andrew’s Public High School, but Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler, bishop of Charleston at the time, was encouraging young men to gain a secular education first. Buchanan decided it would be a good idea to go to the College of Charleston and see if his apparent vocation to the priesthood held up.

“I decided to wait it out and would not close any other options,” he said.

He attended Mass at St. Mary on Hasell St. before class most days and discerned that he still wanted to dedicate his life to service in the church after four years of that. He thinks that both the secular higher education and his European experience have been advantageous for him.

“I have a feeling for the universal church now and a greater appreciation of the American church. I’ve had good opportunities.” He will have another good opportunity at the diocesan ordination rites on July 12.