By JORDAN MCMORROUGH
CHARLESTON — One of the state’s highest honors for civic leadership, the Order of the Palmetto, was presented to retired Bishop David B. Thompson in a ceremony held Oct. 23 at Charleston City Hall.
During the event, which took place in City Council chambers, the bishop thanked “my fellow religious leaders of all faiths throughout the state. I accept this honor in your name. … You members of the ecumenical community and the interfaith community have already honored me for my service with you and among you. Now there is the Order of the Palmetto Award, the civic community’s recognition of my service.”
The two sponsors required for the award were Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley and Peatsy Hollings, wife of U.S. Senator Ernest Hollings. Charleston attorney Mike Maloney, who first approached Riley with the idea of nominating Bishop Thompson during the summer, also attended the gathering.
To receive the honor, a formal process of application is undertaken, with the information then considered by S.C. Gov. Jim Hodges before being recommended for approval. The Order of the Palmetto is given sparingly, according to Riley.
“There could not be a more deserving recipient,” the mayor commented before the presentation of the award. “Bishop Thompson was a healer and a builder. The Catholic Church has grown in South Carolina in both numbers of faithful and churches as well. He brought the people together in the diocesan Synod, which was a blueprint for the future.”
Riley continued by saying that the bishopwas a leader in the state in both spiritual guidance and civic guidance. “I’m proud of the way he has distinguished himself and the Catholic people in South Carolina,” the Charleston mayor said.
Then, in alluding to some of the golf outings the Riley family have had with the retired prelate, he said, “You measure great people and leaders by their sense of humor, the way they make those around them feel at ease. Bishop Thompson has an inner spirit of light and optimism that a sense of humor brings. He is a man of God, grace, and a powerful leader.”
Governor Hodges was excited at this opportunity to present the Order of Palmetto to Bishop Thompson, added Riley, who thanked the governor for giving him the honor of presenting it in his stead.
“I will remember this all my life,” he said.
The retired bishop of Charleston said the receiving the honor is rewarding because of his public stance on the issues of abortion, death penalty, Confederate flag, gambling, and the role of women in the Church. He said his positions have not always been accepted and were frequently opposed.
“This award speaks eloquently of respect, not only for me, but for all citizens of this state and the legitimacy of their differing beliefs and differing points of view,” he said.
In his retirement, Bishop Thompson said he plans to stay faithful to the motto he took when he was named to the Diocese of Charleston: “Working for the Peace of Christ.”
In closing remarks, Bishop Robert J. Baker said the presentation of the Order of the Palmetto to Bishop Thompson was a well deserved honor, not only for the retired bishop but for the entire Diocese of Charleston as well.
“I hope to do as well as he did, to bring healing to people of all faiths and backgrounds,” said Bishop Baker. “He is a model to all who follow in his footsteps.”
Bishop David B. Thompson’s remarks upon accepting the Order of the Palmetto Award
It is most gratifying that, as I begin my retirement to the station of a private citizen, I am accompanied with the approbation and esteem of the citizens of South Carolina by being presented with the Order of the Palmetto Award for outstanding citizenship. If I had the lyrics and music, the voice and the ear, I might launch into the official state song: “South Carolina On My Mind”!
I am deeply grateful to all the public officials of our state (to Governor Jim Hodges and especially this morning to Mayor Joseph Riley) for favoring me with this prestigious South Carolina symbol emblematic of good citizenship. It confirms me in a lifelong belief that by being a good Christian I would be a good citizen, and I always wanted to be just that. You know, I didn’t have to be a priest or a bishop, but I always had to be a good citizen. We all must be.
Saying this prompts me to salute and to thank my fellow religious leaders of all faiths throughout the state. I accept this honor in your name; and I proclaim that it has been my honor and privilege to work with you to promote the dignity of every human person in the state of South Carolina, and to oppose by all legal means possible any and all violence to the lives of all children of the one Lord and God. You members of the ecumenical community and the interfaith community have already honored me for my service with you and among you. Now there is the Order of the Palmetto Award, the civic community’s recognition of my service. This is remarkable and rewarding, especially because my public positions on the challenging issues of abortion, the death penalty, the Confederate flag, gambling, and the God-given role of women in my own Church have not always been accepted and were frequently opposed. This award speaks eloquently of respect, not only for me, but for all citizens of this state and the legitimacy of their differing beliefs and differing points of view.
My dear friends, in my retirement residence I have a favorite frame: “I wasn’t born in the South, but I got here as fast as I could.” And I’m staying fast in South Carolina, loving it every day, hoping and praying to remain one of its good citizens, to be a blessing to my community, a man of God faithful to the motto I took when I came here as the Bishop of Charleston: “Working for the Peace of Christ.”
Thank you, and, “Peace”!