From California to New York, people journey to welcome new bishop

CHARLESTON — More than one person who attended the ordination of Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone said they would be shedding happy tears.

Cardinal Edward M. Egan, archbishop emeritus of New York, spoke after the consecration and said the bishop’s parents, Carolina and Francesco, were watching from heaven, praying for him and crying tears of joy.

Indeed, the heavens seemed to be weeping with delight as the 13th bishop of the Diocese of Charleston took his vows under rainy skies March 25.

The rain did not put a damper on the mood of the crowd or attendance as people packed the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and filled the Cathedral hall, where about 125 spectators watched the ceremony on a large screen.

The faithful who viewed the service via live-feed said it turned out much better than they had anticipated.

“It was wonderful. I cried,” Anne Mary Nash-Haruna said. “I missed being in the Cathedral a bit because I wanted to see everything, but I still felt a part of the ceremony.”

Others praised the personal touch of sending over the host with servers from the Cathedral so participants in the hall could also partake of holy Communion.

“At first I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to be in the hall,’ ” said Sandra Tawes, “but it was simply wonderful. You could hear everything and it was so clear.”

Inside the Cathedral, friends and family members filled the front pews early. Sister Mary Alice Piil, CSJ, and Franciscan Brother John Pavin chatted before the service about the cause and effect of seemingly random events and how everything always serves a purpose.

Sister Mary Alice said she was experiencing many mixed emotions, although she was delighted for the diocese.

“We’re going to miss him,” she said. “He’s been a very big presence in the church in Rockville Centre in many ways. And I’m going to miss him on a personal level.”

Brother John said he could always see the Holy Spirit in Bishop Guglielmone, but added he was surprised at where the Spirit led him.

The bishop himself spoke of that surprise when he addressed his new parishioners. He told the crowd, and everyone watching online, that he was walking his dog one day when he received a call from the Vatican. He knew the call could only mean one thing, but supposed he would be assigned closer to home, maybe New Jersey at the farthest, he said, smiling. The next thing he knew, he was moving to the South.

He joked that his greatest challenge would be acclimating himself to the warm weather of his new home state. “I’ll have to get used to this heat,” he said, smiling as the Southerners around him bundled up in coats against the 66-degree day. “I just pray for the use of effective air conditioning.”

Members of the diocese have their own challenge as they strive to say Bishop Guglielmone’s name correctly. Pronounced goo-yell-MOH-nee, the one person who seemed to say the Italian name effortlessly was Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The scene outside the Cathedral prior to the ordination and after was busy as camera crews lined the sidewalk, police officers directed traffic and ushers kept the crowd moving.

Bishop Guglielmone, whose crest contains the motto “Walk humbly with your God,” seemed unaffected by the attention. Beaming happily after the service, he joked with his parishioners, and spoke warmly and enthusiastically to everyone he met.

“I hope I can be for you all that you have hoped for and prayed for,” he said.

In brief remarks to the media, Bishop Guglielmone said he has no particular agenda yet, but will take the message of the Catholic Church and Christ to each area of the state and let it meet their needs in the best way possible. He added that he will work hard to know the diocese and serve closely with his brother priests.

His love for hiking may draw him to the Upstate, and his passion for baseball could carry him to various campuses for college games, and of course to the Riverdogs stadium. Bishop Guglielmone said he was excited to learn that Charleston’s minor league baseball team is a farm team of his beloved New York Yankees.

The bishop also has many Scouts who would happily show him around the state and take him hiking. Some of those young men were lucky enough to attend the ordination with Scout leader Jim Weiskircher, including one youth who is in discernment now.

The Girl Scouts were represented by Synclair Tucker, a 9-year-old student from St. Anthony of Padua School in Greenville who attended with her principal, Franciscan Sister Catherine Noecker.

“I thought it would be fun to get to see the bishop,” Tucker said.

Father Francisco Cruz, administrator of Sacred Heart Church in Gaffney, led a group of Hispanic singers to make a pilgrimage to the ordination. The singers, who ranged in age from toddlers to senior citizens, stood on the steps of the Cathedral playing instruments and singing Spanish songs of praise.

Most of the bishop’s family came from the New York area to witness the event, but one cousin made the trip from California.

“Not everybody has a bishop in the family,” Pete Faconti said of his cross-country trek.