By TIM BULLARD
NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — Candidates and former candidates for a challenging role in the church attended the annual deacon retreat at the Ocean Creek Resort conference center Feb. 2-4.
As potential deacons and family members checked in Friday afternoon, there was already excitement in the air with old friends renewing acquaintances with parish members from across the state.
The retreat master was Franciscan Father Edward Dillon and Deacon George Tierney served as retreat coordinator.
Registrations included people from across the state, including Thomas Baronoski of Charleston, Oliver Moore of York, Robert and Helen Kronyak of Santee and Coleman Parks of Lexington. Also, there was Gregory Sams of Hilton Head, Gabriel Cuervo of Greenville, Betty and Tony DeBlasio of Myrtle Beach, Charles Wendel of North Myrtle Beach, Joseph Urbanski of Greer, Robert Pierce of Aiken, James Williams of Greenville, Robert Gerald of Florence, Diego Ferro, Michael Beeter of Beaufort, Shane Graham of Summerville and many others.
Jim Hyland, a retired police department lieutenant from Rock Hill, is the parish life facilitator at St. Joseph Church in Chester.
“I’ve been a deacon seven years,” he said. “This is my 10th retreat. It’s a chance to get together with the other deacons. It’s a change of pace. You get away from your everyday responsibilities.”
Roland Thomas, a deacon at St. Martin de Porres Church in Columbia, is retired from the S.C. Department of Corrections.
“It’s because I can be of service to people,” he said of his reason for attending. “I think all the deacons look forward to this time of year. This is a special time for us.”
Teresa Callihan, secretary at St. Andrew Church, and Carlette Reynolds, administrative assistant, were pleased with the participation.
“It’s continuing education and a spiritual gift in association with each other,” said Reynolds. Added Callihan, “It’s a spiritual renewal for most of these people to get together.”
Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, director of deacons for the diocese, said that the annual retreat is mandated by the Code of Canon Law.
The course of study for the diaconate is a five-year process, which includes one year of spirituality and four years of academic and continuing spiritual formation.
Bishop Robert J. Baker was at the event on Sunday. During the morning Mass, he called to candidacy the new aspirants, who have completed three years of study in the program, in addition to their year of spiritual preparation.
“Now they officially become candidates for the ordination of holy orders by the call of the bishop,” said Msgr. Roth. “It doesn’t guarantee them ordination, but it begins the process.”
There were 31 candidates this year, according to Msgr. Roth.
Jeff Mevissen, a candidate from St. James Church in Conway, enjoyed Bishop Baker’s remarks Sunday during Mass.
“He was very spiritual,” said Mevissen. “He had a lot of practical advice for spiritual growth.”