Cathedral steeple under way, Mepkin production shut down

As we move into a new year, The Catholic Miscellany takes a look back at the stories that made the news in 2008. Below is a sampling of some of our top stories:

Mepkin under siege

The first big story of 2008 for South Carolina Catholics was the announcement that the monks of Mepkin Abbey would phase out their egg production business over the next year and a half.

The Abbey had come under attack from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for the supposed mistreatment of chickens. Abbot Stan Gumula said they were sad to lose the work that had sustained them for 56 years, but constant media attention from PETA’s accusations made it difficult for the monks to live their quiet life of prayer, work and sacred reading.

The Trappist monks live under the rule of St. Benedict, which calls for members to provide for their daily needs by the work of their hands. They are in the process of establishing a new way to support the abbey.

The pro-life cause

Crusaders in the battle to end abortion kicked off the year with the 35th annual Stand Up for Life March and Rally in Columbia Jan. 12. Approximately 1,000 people converged on the capitol grounds to applaud and support the passionate speeches and personal testimony about the sanctity of life.

Pro-life events continued throughout the year, and became especially intense in the months leading up to the presidential election.

Msgr. Martin T. Laughlin, administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, urged people to exercise their right to vote, and to look at the credentials of the candidates and vote with their conscience.

“We may never embrace evil,” Msgr. Laughlin wrote in a letter to Catholics in September. “We must follow the commandment, ‘thou shall not kill’ and the Beatitude, ‘blessed are the merciful.’ ”

Some students paid heed and took it a step further by starting their own pro-life movement.

A small group of Clemson University students, staff and faculty started CU Students for Life in October. They hope to activate the pro-life cause at the university and in the city of Clemson that surrounds the campus.

In November, Alveda King spoke at the University of South Carolina about abortion in the black community.

Here is the steeple

Plans for the new steeple for the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist were approved by Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review just before January 2008. The steeple is part of a $7 million long-term renovation project. More than 100 stained glass windows were restored in September.

The steeple’s addition will mark the first time the Cathedral has had a steeple since 1861, when a fire destroyed the original Cathedral of St. John and St. Finbar.

Heavenly reward

The Diocese of Charleston bid farewell to three of their own priests this year.

Father Edward F. Mullen, a retired priest who was living at St. Joseph’s Residence, died Jan. 23. He was 82. Father Mullen’s last assignment before retirement was as pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel on Folly Beach.

Father Howard L. Coughlin, pastor emeritus of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Mauldin, died Feb. 17 in his residence. He was 81.

Father Herbert K. Conner, one of only two Jesuit priests left in the state, died Aug. 30 at age 77. He was the pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville.

Also, a group of alumni from The Citadel created a memorial scholarship in honor of the late Father Lee A. Selzer, who died in August 2007 at age 39 of complications from diabetes.


Members of the religious community marked a number of important anniversaries in 2008.

The Oratorians of Rock Hill were honored for 75 years of service in South Carolina with a Valentine’s Day dinner and auction.

The Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy celebrated the 100th birthday of two of their members. Sister deNeri Faase reached the century mark on Jan. 25. She was followed by Sister M. Brendan Lacey, who turned 100 on March 14. Both sisters live at the motherhouse on James Island.

Another order with a long history of service in the diocese is the Ursuline Sisters. The congregation marked 150 years in Columbia with a Mass and reception at Cardinal Newman High School April 13.

Pope Benedict XVI granted an apostolic blessing to the pastor and parishioners of St. Francis by the Sea Church on its 25th anniversary in November.

New to the diocese

Family Honor, Inc., a Columbia-based chastity education organization, announced its plans for a diocesan chastity education program.

In December, Father Allam Marreddy blessed the future site of Good Shepherd Church in McCormick, which is scheduled for completion in 2009.

Sisters in faith

“Crossroads,” a documentary on the history of women religious in the Diocese of Charleston, premiered on South Carolina Educational Television March 23, which was Easter Sunday.

The Pious Daughters of St. Paul, an order of nuns whose charism is spreading the Gospel through books and other media, began a fund-raising campaign in April for much-needed repairs and renovations of their bookstore. Pauline Books and Media, where the sisters live and work, is plagued with mold and water damage.  

Sister Roberta Fulton, of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, earned the Woman Religious of the Year award from the S.C. Council of Catholic Women. She was honored April 12 during the council’s 78th annual convention in North Charleston. Nina McCunniff, who was named Catholic Woman of the Year by the SCCCW, was also honored. She is a parishioner of St. Francis by the Sea on Hilton Head.

School notes

Diocesan schools as a whole did well in 2008. In May, the Catholic schools office announced that nine diocesan schools ranked in the top 10 percent in the country in both reading and math, according to the results of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Another five schools were in the top 10 percent for reading, and two others for math.

St. John Neumann School earned three top academic honors. They were named a 2008 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Dept. of Education, received an Inviting Schools Fidelity Award, and earned the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools certificate of accreditation.

St. Joseph’s Catholic School was named to the top 50 Catholic High School Honor Roll in November for the fourth time in five years. They are the only Catholic high school in the state to earn this honor.

Knightly news

Over 300 Knights and their families attended the 86th annual State Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Spartanburg in May. Past State Deputy Ray Hock was honored and the following state officers were elected: Joseph Gubeli, deputy; Thomas Monahon, secretary; Richard Gabriel, treasurer; Richard Stachelek, advocate; Richard Marino, warden; and Father James Parker, chaplain.

In remembrance

Irish Catholics who helped build the Columbia Canal in 1810 were honored in September with the dedication of a monument along the Congaree River and a Mass at St. Peter Church.

St. Peter Church also hosted the first “Remembering Our Children” Mass in October for families to honor the memories of their sons and daughters.

Also in October, the sixth annual Diocese of Charleston Rosary Celebration in honor of Our Lady of South Carolina — Our Lady of Joyful Hope was held in Kingstree.

Ethnic celebrations

Throughout the year, the ethnic diversity of the diocese was celebrated and honored by Catholics across the state.

The eighth annual Vietnamese Marian celebration was held at Our Lady of La Vang Park on May 18 and was attended by hundreds of men, women and children.

Byzantine and Maronite Catholics witnessed a renewed interest and growth in their cultural traditions.  

The Diocese of Charleston’s Black Catholic Heritage Celebration 2008 was held at St. Mary Church Oct. 17-18 and featured special events to encourage the participation of youth.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

A number of festivals and celebrations were held in December to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.

A new shrine was dedicated at St. Mark in Newberry, and special events drew crowds in Conway, Batesburg-Leesville and Goose Creek to honor the Patronness of the Americas.