Fahey finds his calling in Catholic history

CHARLESTON — Brian Fahey has found his niche among the annals of the Catholic Church. He is the new archivist for the Diocese of Charleston.

Fahey grew up on three-mile-by-one-mile Tybee Island near Savannah, Ga. He was an only child, but was surrounded by extended family on the island.

His family belonged to St. Michael Parish, where he went to grade school. He graduated from the Benedictine Military High School.

“I’m definitely an advocate for Catholic education,” Fahey said. “It gives a solid foundation on which you build your life.”

Fahey graduated from The Citadel in 1996. While at the military college, Fahey — who admits he’s not very musically inclined — was interested to the popular pipe band.

“I was so awful they moved me to tenor drummer,” he said. “If you don’t know anything about a pipe band, the tenor drummer is there to look pretty, swing the mallets around and hit the drum every now and then.”

His pipe band days didn’t last past college. After graduation he joined the Charleston Police Department.

He went to the police academy with high hopes of making a difference in the community, but his expectations were unfulfilled. So he searched for another career path.

He visited the library at The Citadel and was intrigued by the vast knowledge of a librarian with whom he spoke.

Upon further research, Fahey found the joint master’s program in public history and in library and information science at the University of South Carolina. He enrolled, and has since earned his master’s in library and information science. He will receive  his master’s in public history upon completion of his thesis, for which he chose an interesting character: Maurice Bessenger.

“People often dismiss him …,” Fahey said. “He is actually a significant piece of South Carolina history.”

In 2002, Fahey took a position at the Gibbes Museum of Art as its very first archivist. Loads of material that needed to be organized, described, and filed made the task daunting. But Fahey persevered and built an archival system from scratch.

“It was a bit overwhelming,” he said, “but I managed to get a grip on it.”

He secured a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for supplies and equipment, and he started a records management program.

When the position at the diocesan Archives Office became available, he applied. He was searching for a place that held more of his interests.

Fahey and his wife, Jennifer, have been married just over a year, and he is settling into his new position as diocesan archivist.

“The best thing is being able to handle and review unfiltered history,” he said. “Most history that people receive has been digested by someone else. When you handle things firsthand, you get to make your own interpretation. It’s an intimate perspective. You get to touch history.”