CHARLESTON—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone marked his first anniversary in the Diocese of Charleston by celebrating Mass in the same church where he was ordained.
In his welcome to the congregation at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on March 25, the bishop said it was a nice feeling to know what he was doing this year.
People responded to the bishop’s humor and enthusiasm with laughter, nodding in agreement and smiling at each other over pertinent points during the homily, in which Bishop Guglielmone spoke about the power of saying yes to God.
“We look to Mary — the finest of the human race — who said yes, and because of that yes the world was changed forever,” he said.
He said it isn’t always easy to say yes, whether one is in marriage, a religious vocation, or single life. The bishop admitted that unlike Mary, he said no, choosing to teach for years before acceding to God’s wishes for him.
A strong proponent of encouraging vocations in youth, Bishop Guglielmone reminded the faithful that Mary was a teenager when the angel appeared to her.
“Let us never, never indicate that young people might not have what’s necessary to respond to God,” he said.
After Mass, a festive crowd met at the Cathedral hall for a luncheon. Speakers picked up the theme of saying yes, and thanked the bishop for his own affirmative to God and the Diocese of Charleston.
“You fulfilled our expectations far beyond our imagination,” said Father Richard D. Harris, vicar general.
Over the course of 365 days, the bishop traveled over 19,000 miles across the state, trying to visit every parish and school and grow to know the people and culture of the South.
When he was presented with a gift at the luncheon, Bishop Guglielmone jokingly asked if it was a helicopter to make traveling easier. His sense of humor, connection with youth, and true compassion were some of the qualities mentioned by well-wishers.
In an interview after the celebration, the bishop said the biggest change is that he is unable to interact with parishioners on a regular basis the way he did as a priest.
“You get to meet a lot of people, but you don’t get the opportunity to get to know them,” he said.
He said he misses that, but understands that being a bishop is a different ministry. His role now is to build a relationship with his priests, who will relay his concerns and compassion to their parishes.
Bishop Guglielmone said he has found the South to be a beautiful place, with many wonderful parks that he and his dog Mickey like to explore in their travels across the diocese.
Before arriving here from New York, he was concerned about the area’s reputation for Catholic intolerance, but said he has found other religions to be accepting and willing to work together.
The bishop said he was also impressed by the level of faith commitment that Southern Catholics have, with a high percentage of people attending Mass and participating in parish life.
One area that does concern him is the isolation of priests, not from their parishioners, but from their brother priests. He said he would like to increase the opportunities for them to meet, in prayer, workshops, or just socially.
Father Bryan P. Babick, parochial vicar at Christ Our King Church, served as master of ceremony at the luncheon and guided the event with a light touch, joking with the bishop, speakers, and presenters.
Other speakers included Msgr. Charles H. Rowland, judicial vicar; Sister Bridget Sullivan, vicar for religious, of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy; Sister Julia Hutchison, diocesan superintendent of education, of the Sisters of Notre Dame; Joseph Gubeli, Knights of Columbus state deputy; Judge Arthur C. McFarland, Knights of St. Peter Claver past supreme knight; Father Titus Fulcher, office of child protection services, director; and several diocesan employees.