SC3 is a chapter of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a papal agency dedicated to humanitarian and pastoral support for the church in the Middle East, northeast Africa, Eastern Europe and India.
It was founded in 1926 by Pope Pius XI to serve as a bridge between the church in the west and east.
Since January, Father Hayden J. Vaverek has been a development officer for the association (www.cnewa.us), based in New York City. He is a priest of the Diocese of Charleston and received permission from Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone to serve there.
He spends much of his time traveling to parishes around the nation, helping where he is needed and spreading the news about the agency’s work.
SC3, also known as SC Cubed, stands for South Carolina Sharing Caring Serving Communities. Father Vaverek said it is one of several volunteer chapters being created to raise funds for various Near East projects.
SC3’s focus is St. Raphael Hospital in Baghdad. Run by Dominican sisters, it was one of the only hospitals in the area that continued operating during the height of the Iraq War.
Despite its dangerous location, doctors and staff members continue working there.
Father Vaverek said SC3 is raising money to build a new operating room and to complete other renovations at St. Raphael.
The group was formed this spring and has chapters in the Upstate, Grand Strand and Hilton Head areas.
Efforts are underway to bring SC3 to the Midlands, Charleston and the Pee Dee.
The first major fundraiser will be a Texas-style barbecue scheduled for Sept. 23 at Timmons Arena on the Furman University campus in Greenville.
Father Vaverek said another goal is to educate people about the unique history and culture of the Eastern Catholic churches, including the Maronites in Lebanon, Coptics in Egypt, Chaldeans in Iraq, and several others.
“The Eastern church is a rich, rich part of the heritage of the church,” he said.
“The spirituality is so important, and each of the 21 Eastern rites is beautiful in its own right,” Father Vaverek continued. “Our job at CNEWA has been to help make sure the church is sustained in its mission in the places where the church began.
“What we do is to help the church continue to proclaim the Gospel in areas where it has already been present for 2,000 years.”
Near East projects run the gamut from helping needy children to building schools in Ethiopia. The group is also supporting a school for the deaf in Bethlehem.
The agency builds relationships between Rome and the Orthodox churches and increases interreligious dialogue between Catholics and other faith traditions in areas where Christians are a distinct minority.
Vocations are an important part of the agency’s work, and currently it helps sponsor 1,000 novices in formation to become religious sisters, and 3,000 men studying to be priests.
“Young men and young women are stepping forward to serve the church in their homelands, despite challenges and sometimes dangers, and often religious orders and bishops there struggle to be able to finance their education,” Father Vaverek said.