WALTERBORO — If any one person exemplifies overcoming adversity through faith in God, it would be Norma Dopson of St. Anthony parish.
Dopson, 67, mother of two, first came face to face with true heartache nine years ago when she lost her husband, a Coast Guard veteran, during a routine lung exam. The following year her only sister committed suicide, and her daughter, Desiree, who suffers from a mental disability, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. But despite all of the tragedies that have come her way, Dopson demonstrates amazing faith in her God.
“When my daughter was born with a mental disability, I never questioned God, but I always wondered if there was something I could have done to prevent it,” said Dopson. “Then one day shortly after my husband died, it just hit me. I was so close to my husband and his death was very devastating, but I realized that God had given me Desiree because I would need her 27 years later when my husband died. I needed her with me so that I could continue on.”
Dopson owns and runs a beauty salon in her home and volunteers many hours to her parish’s ministries.
“I count money for the church on Mondays; I work with Helping Hands; I am a member of the Council of Catholic Women; and I am an altar server,” she said.
Dopson also transports several widows to weekly Mass and cleans all of the brass for Christmas and Easter. When asked how she manages it all, she simply replies, “If you want to do it, you find the time.”
“Doing these things is not an inconvenience at all,” she said. “I guess I could say I do it for selfish reasons. It brings me such joy.”
“My mother taught me to serve,” she said. “She was always doing something for the church. I can remember that she would iron habits for the nuns in the Virgin Islands.”
But Dopson ultimately attributes her drive to serve to Sister Mary David Lucier, a Sister of Mercy, who served at St. Anthony for many years.
“I was a good Catholic girl. I went to Mass and confession, but Sister David taught me that that wasn’t enough,” she said. “She taught me to get involved and do it for God, don’t do it because others can see. I truly credit Sister for my stronger beliefs.”
Dopson explained that Sister David passed on a love for the poor that has carried over into her life today.
“When I was much younger I used to complain about people coming for free groceries who didn’t need them. Sister always said that if you give away 10 bags of groceries and only one person really needed it, you’ve done a good thing,” said Dopson. “That has always stuck with me, and I am still delivering groceries to this day because of it.”
Her testimony has influenced many of the lives she has touched, including Barbara Hill’s. Hill, the secretary for St. Anthony, has witnessed Dopson’s incredible testimony over the years.
“In knowing (Dopson), she has showed me a more gentle way to enjoy my faith,” said Hill. “I would call her my Catholic mentor.”
Hill described Dopson as a faithful person and a very true friend.
“If half of the world could be like her, the world would be a better place,” she said. “One thing about her that I will never forget is that she goes to church for God — not for the priests or other people, just for God.”
And despite Dopson’s love for her home in the Virgin Islands, she now considers Walterboro and its people to be her home and family.
“I always told my husband that if anything happened to him I would take the next plane out of here,” she said. “But this is home now. The people here have been so good to me. I thank God for them.”
Dopson also makes it a point to enjoy her children and grandchildren. Her son, Edward, and his two sons live in Mount Pleasant.