The year in review

“We may be hurt, but we will have life and lots of it.” Msgr. Joseph Roth


At the start of the millennium there was discussion about whether the year 2000 or 2001 was the real landmark of 1,000 years since the birth of Christ. The year 2000 was celebrated as the jubilee year, but 2001 has proven to be the doorway to the future.

On New Year’s Eve 2000, Pope John Paul II told the people of the world to keep their eyes on Jesus. In a Catholic News Service report, the pope said, “He is the one who with wisdom and with the strength of the Spirit will help us face the challenges of the new millennium.”

Challenges are created anew with each day, but this year the U.S. people tenaciously faced an unfathomable trial — one that sparked debate and the joining of hearts.

In the Diocese of Charleston, we celebrated a Year of Reconciliation, in which we explored the diversities within the church and strove to create a union in that diversity. Since January, we have been preparing for a coming together. With evangelization as a central theme throughout the year, the diocesan faithful took part in workshop after workshop and seminar after seminar to continue their faith formation in order to bring its wisdom and unique gifts to others.

In his January column, Bishop Robert Baker quoted Pope John Paul II, “It is essential for us to understand that Jesus has a specific task in life for each and every one of us. Each one of us is handpicked, called by name, called by Jesus. There is no one among us who does not have divine vocation” (homily from Glasgow, Scotland, June 1, 1992).

With each workshop, parishioners were called to renew their baptismal promise, to continually reaffirm their life in Christ. Sister Maureen Shaughnessy, Kathleen Chesto, Father Michael Clay, and Joanne Chafe spoke throughout the year in a series of workshops organized by the diocesan Office of Evangelization, Catechesis, and Christian Initiation. The April workshop with Chafe was sponsored by the Atlanta Province. During the workshop, Paul Schroeder, director of the evangelization and catechesis office, introduced a program called Disciples in Mission. The diocese will implement the program in 2003. Disciples in Mission seeks to bring parishioners together during Lent in small-faith communities to enhance their faith formation and help them be more confident in sharing their faith. With this knowledge, the call to renew their baptismal promise will become easier and formation will continue beyond Lent.

As we go back to our roots of evangelization, the people of the diocese are also working in the present. Multicultur-alism continued as an important issue. At the two-day multiculturalism workshop in May, Charity of the Incarnate Word Sister Rosa Maria Icaza and Humility Sister Toby Lardie said that recognizing the communication style of various cultures will aid in understanding people of varying backgrounds. The workshop set in motion a precedence of learning about other cultures and coming to an understanding amid differences.

Listening sessions brought together groups of African-Americans and Hispanics. Concerns of these minority groups were addressed and brought before the bishop in continuing efforts to connect the faithful in one Body.

In April, Kathleen Merritt was appointed director of Ethnic Ministries for the diocese. The new department incorporated the efforts of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry and the Office of Hispanic Ministry.

The diocese furthered its fellowship with people of other faiths.

In October, LARCUM (Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic, United Methodist) hosted well-known theologian Cardinal Avery Dulles. The ecumenical group discussed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.

Cardinal Dulles said, “The heart of the joint declaration” is in paragraph 15: “Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work, and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and received the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.”

The diocese continued to garner support from the faithful with the annual development fund collection. The Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal was introduced as the new development campaign. Mike Gocsik, secretary of the Office of Stewardship and Mission Advancement, said the goal of the BSA was promoting stewardship theology through education and awareness initiatives. So instead of giving solely monetarily each year, the BSA will help people have a better understanding of what their church is asking of them, time and talent along with treasure.

In October, Gocsik held three roundtable discussions to promote the stewardship education process.

In November, “Formed as Apostles, Sent as Disciples” brought stewardship and evangelization together. The 200 participants were told by keynote speaker, Bishop Michael Warfel of Juneau, Alaska, “We must use our resources and energies to proclaim Christ to the ends of the earth, bringing the good news of Jesus into every situation. It’s different from proselytism. To evangelize is to invite all people to the light. Pope Paul VI said evangelization is the mission of the church. It’s the reason we exist. Period.”

Collaborative ministry within the light of evangelization was discussed in the diocese as well. A workshop held in January focused on bringing together the increasing workforce of lay leaders and integrating their offices. It also sought to incorporate the laity with the work of pastoral leaders.

While lay leadership will remain an integral aspect to parish life into the future, priestly vocations are up locally and nationally. In the fall of 1999, the diocese had eight seminarians. This fall, 18 men were in priestly formation for the diocese.

To help sustain this growth in vocations, the diocese unveiled a vocations awareness campaign in 2001. Imagine is an evangelization plan that will invite young minds to the idea of priesthood. A 20-minute video and a poster that says “Imagine … Being a Priest” were sent to every parish, Catholic school, and college and university in South Carolina.

This year, Father Greg Wilson was ordained to the priesthood, and Deacon Lee Selzer was ordained to the transitional diaconate. He will be ordained a priest in the summer of 2002. Fathers Thomas Morrison and Thomas Evatt celebrated 25 years in the priesthood.

A major initiative for retired priests was announced with the start of the campaign for St. Joseph Residence. The assisted-living facility will be an addition to the Carter-May Home in Charleston and will allow priests to live with the companionship of their brother priests.

Another addition to an older Catholic facility in Charleston took place at St. Katharine’s Convent on Wentworth Street. As the diocesan Volunteer Program continued to grow, larger quarters were required. So the former convent was transformed into The Drexel House for the volunteers. Its chapel was named St. Peter’s in honor of the parish community of St. Peter’s, which once resided on Wentworth Street.

Pro-life organizations in the state also stepped up their operations by moving to larger facilities. Birthright of Charleston and South Carolina Citizens for Life expanded to meet their needs as they fought a new battle in pro-life issues.

While the stem-cell debate continues across the nation as new developments emerge, the Catholic Church’s position is clear.

“The Catholic Church believes and teaches that life begins at conception,” said Msgr. Joseph Roth, vicar general, in an August column in The Miscellany.

On several occasions Bishop Baker called the faithful to prayer after Sept. 11. He declared Sept. 12 a day of mourning and prayer in the diocese and asked pastors to celebrate a Mass for Times of Turmoil and Disaster.

Msgr. Roth gave the homily at the Sept. 12 Mass at the cathedral. He said, “We may be hurt, but we will have life and lots of it. We look to the cross and in its darkest moments, we see hope for Easter Sunday come and with it salvation and new life.”

After Sept. 11, the idea of just war was debated in the Catholic community. Is our nation acting justly in the war against terrorism? How does it mesh with Christian ideals and respect for life?

Popular opinion stood by the ideas of the just war theory.

However, Msgr. Thomas Duffy, pastor of St. Michael’s in Garden City, continually has called readers’ attention to the pacifist point of view. He wrote in The Miscellany, “Yes, it is a time to be enraged at what has happened because it is evil. But it is also a time to pray that our rage be against sin and not sinners.” He later wrote, “(Jesus) prayed that we be united in love for one another so that we might be an effective sign to all human beings that a life of love is not an impossible dream that is to admired from afar, but a reality to be lived.”

Bishop Baker, during a discussion on just war, said, “We believe in Scripture; so we must listen, pray and meditate to find God’s will for us.”

He said the church supports both the pacifist and the supporter of just war. The faithful in choosing their position should leave room for understanding their counterpart.

While hearty debate on stem-cell research, war, and church policy will continue, the call to join hearts and hands as one Body rings louder each day.

Bishop Baker offered words of encouragement to his flock in looking toward a new day, but the words were not in the weeks following Sept. 11. With the wisdom of a shepherd, he called his flock to continual perseverance and prayer five months earlier. In his Easter message, he wrote:

“For us Easter is always on the horizon. Suffering and sin and death await that victory Christ already won for us.

“Perpetually we live in the Holy Saturdays of life, between the darkness and death of our own Good Fridays and the expectation of new life in the Easters Christ has promised.

“In the times between, we must take on the perspective of the faithful followers who were patient under trial, persevered in prayer, and rejoiced in hope” (Romans 12:12).