Saying hello and goodbye at Catholic Charities

CHARLESTON — Diane Bullard, a compassionate and tireless advocate for people in need in the Pee Dee area, is moving up — to North Carolina.

Bullard, regional coordinator of Catholic Charities for the Pee Dee Deanery, is leaving for a job coordinating social services for the Piedmont-Triad region of the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. She will be based in Winston-Salem, N.C. Her last day is June 8.

Bullard said it will be difficult to say goodbye to the workers and volunteers she met in her years working for Catholic Charities.

“The best thing has just been working with the rural parishes, getting to know the people around the deanery,” she said in a recent interview with The Miscellany. “It’s also been a big learning experience for me to learn about Catholic social teaching, how it works and all that it means for people.”

Bullard takes pride in many of the projects she helped start, including the Community Empowerment Program, a collaborative effort with rural public schools in the deanery. Church members from the communities visit public school classrooms and tutor students. The program also offers case management and advocacy training to school counselors, parents and educators. It was a 2006 finalist for the Family Strengthening Awards given by Catholic Charities USA.

Also, she is proud of disaster relief programs that she helped implement through Catholic Charities, especially efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina who relocated to the Pee Dee area.

“The diocese has come a long way in developing disaster relief programs, and it’s been a real blessing to see the needs in the community being fulfilled,” she said.

In other deanery news, Deacon James P. Hyland was hired as the new coordinator for Catholic Charities in the Lowcountry. He and his wife, Debbie, recently moved to Beaufort from their home in Rock Hill. He will work out of an office at St. Peter Church and will focus most of his attention on coordinating prison ministry around the diocese. Previously, he served as parish life facilitator at St. Joseph Church in Chester.

“The idea is just to make everybody aware that prison ministry is a ministry of compassion, a social ministry of the church,” Deacon Hyland said in a recent interview with The Miscellany. “There are Catholics in the correctional system who are in need of the sacraments of the church, and other people who are not Catholic who are looking for guidance from us. The church needs to be able to give volunteers a chance to perform the corporal works of mercy, and prison ministry is one of them.”

Deacon Edward Peitler, director of Catholic Charities for the diocese, said Deacon Hyland will be based in Beaufort because there has not been a coordinator present in the Lowcountry Deanery. His goal is for each deanery office to have a core mission, and he said this is a chance to have Catholic Charities represented in the rapidly growing deanery and to develop a central organizing office for prison ministry around the state.

“Our parishes have done a wonderful job of addressing the needs of prisons, making visitations and identifying parishioners who are willing to do this work,” Deacon Peitler said. “What we need is to get the total picture of what’s going on in prison ministry throughout the whole diocese. Bishop Baker has asked us to do this.”

One of Deacon Hyland’s first goals is to contact all parishes in the diocese to find out what, if any, prison programs are already offered.

“I already know for a fact we have priests, deacons and lay people going out to visit the prisons, and I’d like to find out where there are gaps in the system,” he said. “Some ministry groups might be able to plug in with the Knights of Columbus, the Holy Name Society, St. Vincent de Paul Society and other groups that have programs that could fill gaps in what’s already being offered.”

Deacon Hyland said he wants to contact officials in the state’s Department of Corrections to learn about issues and concerns they may have. He also wants to develop an easy way for volunteers to learn about rules, regulations and situations that could affect their work in the prisons.

“Different units sometimes are interpreting rules in different ways,” Deacon Hyland said. “You often have one set of rules for state prisons and another for county jails. A priest or deacon may travel to a unit for Mass or a Communion service, get there and find that the prison’s on lockdown. I’d like to find a way to communicate that fact before his journey even begins.”

Deacon Peitler said a long-term goal is to have an annual diocesan gathering so those involved in prison ministry can share experiences and learn more about it  from guest speakers.