Religious, bishop meet to share needs of the diocese

CHAPIN — The religious men and women of the Diocese of Charleston gathered at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Chapin Feb. 21, for their annual meeting with Bishop Robert J. Baker. They came to share information and learn more about the local and overall needs of Catholics in South Carolina.

The event began as always with a Mass, followed by a short session, lunch and an afternoon open forum.

The homilist for the Mass was Franciscan Father Paul William, pastor at St. Martin de Porres Church in Columbia, who not only represented a priest from a religious order but also was one of the religious jubilarians.

In his homily he spoke about the Gospel reading when Jesus tells his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

He said that religious have a strong sense of this scripture passage because their lives have been filled with sacrifice and self-giving.

“Even though we are being asked to take up the cross, in the end is the resurrection,” he said. “The promise is that if we persevere, we will reign with Christ for all eternity in the New Jerusalem.” He also described how Christ will be waiting for them as the bridegroom waits for his bride.

“Persevere because the hardships we faced today are nothing compared to the glory of heaven,” the Franciscan said encouragingly.

Toward the end of Mass, the jubilarians present were recognized: Sister Carmelita Boyd, OLM; Sister Stella Breen, OSF; Sister Stella Maris Craven, OLM; and Sister Mary Reinhart, CSJ, who all celebrate 50 plus years. Father William was recognized for 25 years of religious service.

“It was a lovely liturgy and a lovely day, ” said Our Lady of Mercy Sister Rosemary Boyd, the biological sister of Sister Camelita. “The meeting was very interesting. The bishop gave us an overview of the needs of the diocese, and we shared our suggestions.”

One of the topics Bishop Baker discussed was initiatives for the Year of the Rosary. A committee has been formed to organize diocesanwide events.

He also mentioned a need for everyone to clearly articulate the message of a culture of life in order to oppose a culture filled with materialism and consumerism.

Prompted by a recent talk given by Pope John Paul II during the World Day of the Sick on Feb. 2, Bishop Baker reiterated the pope’s concerns that a materialistic society tends to marginalize the sick, elderly and unborn, placing their dignity and lives in danger.

In areas of health care where the presence of religious women is significant, much can be done in defending life “when it is most seriously threatened,” according to the Holy Father.

During his time with the religious, the bishop expressed his gratitude for their hard work in the many vital ministries throughout the diocese. He spoke about the many religious men and women who allow themselves to “be led by the Spirit to a constant renewed discovery of God and of his Word, to a burning love for God and for humanity…”as the way of placing spiritual life above all else.

Dominican Sister Pat Keating, liaison for religious, was pleased with the event. All the religious men and women in the diocese were invited and given a response form to establish the agenda.

“There was a good exchange at the meeting. You could sense a willingness for people to work together and listen to one another,” she said.

During the afternoon session, the religious were able to express the local needs in their geographic area to Bishop Baker. They also had the opportunity to see the bigger picture as the bishop presented some diocesewide concerns.

He listened attentively to their input and suggestions in areas such as the improvement and expansion of Catholic education, welcoming and embracing cultural diversity and developing a strategic plan for diocesan collaboration and cohesiveness on various initiatives like housing for the elderly and fostering lay leadership.

“This annual meeting provides a wonderful opportunity for the religious men and women to exchange ideas with one another and with the bishop,” said Sister Keating, who felt many good ideas were generated at the gathering.