CHARLESTON —Deacon Edward Peitler has spent the last four years focused on helping poor people and immigrants, the imprisoned and the homeless, while simultaneously spreading the message of the Gospel.
On Oct. 29, he will step down as director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Charleston, a position he has held since June 2006. In an interview with The Miscellany, Peitler said his work has given him a chance to hone the office’s mission.
“I wanted to place emphasis on Catholic Charities as a ministry of the church, one that saw its place as part of the church’s mission to evangelize … to proclaim the person of Jesus Christ,” he said.
One of the biggest achievements of the past four years, he said, was opening an Office of Prison Ministry in Beaufort. The office gathers information about parish programs, helps determine the need in the diocese, and provides training and fellowship for people who want to be involved in prison ministry.
Another accomplishment was establishing a Catholic Charities office in the Piedmont as a center for Hispanic outreach. The region has the greatest concentration of Hispanics in the state.
He was also able to extend the charity’s reach beyond the border by creating a program of regular medical missions to San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala. Since 2006, more than 150 doctors, nurses, and other volunteers have traveled on eight trips to the area, and a medical clinic has been built there.
“I would say the response has been overwhelming,” Deacon Peitler said. “I would never have guessed so many would want to go. It shows there are Catholics in our diocese who are hungering for the opportunity to give expression to their faith through mission work.”
The deacon revitalized the Catholic Charities board of directors, which consists of 15 people who meet regularly during the year. He is also proud of Clean of Heart, a ministry starting in the Midlands this fall, that will provide bathing and laundry facilities for the homeless.
When he leaves, Deacon Peitler said he will see where God takes him. He reflects on a quote told to him by a Camillian priest, whose order is dedicated to the care of the sick.
“He always quotes to me [what St. Camillus] said, ‘This is God’s work, not mine,’” Deacon Peitler said. “I leave this position with the sentiments that hopefully my work with Catholic Charities was God’s work, not mine.”