By PAUL A. BARRA
CHARLESTON — The Bolchoz name is one that pops up everywhere in the Lowcountry, from Joseph the dentist in Mount Pleasant to Laurence the retired assistant principal at Bishop England High School, from Ruford the cantor at Christ Our King to Mary the music director at Blessed Sacrament. They are nephews and nieces, and grand-nephews and grand-nieces, of the late Msgr. John Manning, an influential pastor who also served as chancellor of the Diocese of Charleston and rector of BEHS.
The New World lineage of the family began with patriarch Alexander in 1806; the name is Alsatian, but there is so much Celtic blood in the Carolina Bolchoz clan now that modern members consider themselves Irish Catholics. They also consider themselves family.
“We’re big on family,” admitted John R. Bolchoz, husband of Maureen Caulder Bolchoz and father of six. Their oldest is his namesake, J. Robert Bolchoz, Jr., who is the chief assistant attorney general of South Carolina, and their youngest is William H. Bolchoz, 12. “They’re all attached to each other. William owes a lot to them.”
So does the Church of Charleston. There are so many Bolchoz family members involved in parishes and Catholic schools in the diocese that The Miscellany decided to concentrate on just one segment of the family, the John and Maureen Bolchoz family.
John retired from Westvaco after 36 years as a production coordinator. He helps Maureen and the couple’s second son, Michael C. Bolchoz, who together own and operate Mike Caulder’s Pub on historic King Street in peninsular Charleston. The restaurant hosts the monthly Communion breakfast of the Holy Name Society of Sacred Heart Church.
Mike, 32, is a former Bishop England linebacker who was All-Conference and Little All-American at Presbyterian College. He was an altar server at Sacred Heart until he went off to P.C. on a scholarship. He looks big and strong enough to strap on pads for the Carolina Panthers tomorrow, yet he speaks gently about his faith.
“The way I was brought up has kept me close to the Church. I have so much from God … that I find myself thanking God daily,” Mike Bolchoz said.
One of those gifts from God is his wife Theresa, who is treasurer of the Home School Association at Blessed Sacrament and who is expecting the couple’s third child. Mike and his parents stroll over to St. Mary of the Annunciation Church, two blocks from Caulder’s Pub on Hasell Street, to express their thanks once or twice a week in person.
Oldest son Robert and his wife Cheryl have three children and are members of St. Joseph’s Parish in Columbia; Robert is on the school board of St. Joseph Catholic School.
Middle child Patricia B. Reese is a catechist at St. Mary in Greenville; her husband Brian is the head athletic trainer at Furman.
Mark D. Bolchoz is a civil engineer in Mount Pleasant; his wife Ashley teaches at Christ Our King-Stella Maris School.
Brian J. Bolchoz is a Mount Pleasant police officer; he and his wife Laura are College of Charleston graduates. In fact, all of John and Maureen’s children hold college degrees, except for William. William is a seventh grader at Blessed Sacrament School, where John is chairman of the school board.
John and his four oldest sons are members of the newly formed Charleston chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an organization that requires its members to be both ethnically Irish and practicing Roman Catholics.
Maureen Bolchoz, a cousin of Msgr. James A. Carter, said that her family was forged in the faith by the influence of another priest, John’s uncle, “Father John.”
“That’s where all these children got their good Catholic foundation,” Mrs. Bolchoz said.
Family friend Msgr. Thomas R. Duffy said that Msgr. John Manning was “not only a great influence on the Bolchoz family but on the diocese as a whole.” John Bolchoz was in the seminary for a year with Father Duffy and the two were boyhood friends in Charleston. The priest has seen the faith of the Bolchoz family grow as the family has grown over the decades since he and John played ball together.
“The Bolchoz family are devoted to the Church,” Father Duffy said.
He found out just how sweeping a statement that was when he was assigned to St. Michael’s Parish in Garden City earlier this year. There the priest found that Laurence Bolchoz, son of Alice and Laurence, is the president of his parish council.
The Bolchoz name seems irrevocably linked to church volunteerism; the family heritage is symbolic of lay participation in the Catholic Church of South Carolina.