Catholic Charities: Service, education and advocacy

As the social service agency of the church, Catholic Charities offers programs designed to help build a world of greater charity, justice and peace. In the Diocese of Charleston those services include senior care, disaster relief, immigration, adoption, prison ministry, food pantries and more. The annual collection will be May 13 in most parishes.

Marvin Veronee stood with his feet in the soil of his family land on Johns Island, looking over Church Creek, over all the years he’d spent on the saltwater and in the pluff mud with his brothers and sisters.

He was trying to say goodbye.

Veronee didn’t want to leave, but his 88-year-old body, once strong and straight, was bent now by arthritis of the spine.

He couldn’t do the housework anymore, not like he wanted it done, getting down on hands and knees to scrub the floor. Smiling ruefully, he said if he did that, he might not get back up.

And it was getting dangerous, because his balance was off, he acknowledged. His niece helped him look for an assisted living facility, and he chose Carter May Home-St. Joseph Residence, which is supported by Catholic Charities.

Veronee said he liked the affiliation with the Catholic diocese and the fact that so many of the employees had been there 15 years or more.

It spoke loudly of the stability of the home, and the concern that the Catholic facility had for its employees and the people in their care.

Janine Bauder, administrator, has been at Carter May for about 16 years. She said they have 23 residents, and all but two are women.

Both men are World War II veterans, but Bauder chuckles at the idea of them telling war stories, and said they spend more time talking to the ladies than each other.

Veronee, a former U.S. Navy lieutenant, was 16 and knew it was only a matter of time
before he was drafted. He stayed in college as long as he could, then chose his service
because he loved the sea.

He was in the 28th Regiment, 1st Battalion, serving with Marines as part of the forces that stormed Iwo Jima. The seaman tells a fascinating account of what happened during the invasion, and the real story of that famous photo of soldiers raising the flag in victory.

It’s in one of the many books he’s written.

After the war, Veronee went to graduate school in Chicago to earn a history degree. He ended up staying, sailing the Great Lakes, for almost 40 years.

When he was 63, he climbed aboard his 21-foot sloop and sailed back to Johns Island.

Part of the journey was made with a friend, and his brother Alvin. Part of it was solo. He said it took 70 days and was his last great adventure.

“Since then I’ve been loafing until I fell apart and ended up here,” Veronee said, smiling.

If you ask how he’s doing now, he’ll tell you he’s not happy. He no longer has his sailboat or his view of the marshes. But he still has his sense of humor and smiles and laughs a lot, despite wishing he were home.

He’s done what he can to make his room at Carter May homey. He has photos of friends and sailboats, and prints of famous war scenes. Outside his window are bird feeders  he set up, and scattered all around are his reading materials.

Within easy reach are newspapers, magazines and books, eight of which he wrote, with another in the works.

Veronee said he strives to keep his mind sharp — little things, like keeping a list of all the birds he sees. He has a tattered copy of a field guide, but after 60 years of bird watching, he doesn’t need it.

For the past eight years, he’s volunteered at the Yorktown, where he greets visitors and “tells lies to the tourists,” he joked with a laugh.

“If it hurts my back, that’ll just have to happen,” the veteran said. “I need to get out and see people, talk to someone.”

This is one of the things he likes about Carter May, he said, praising all the activities offered by Nancy Moss.

“There’s a lot of different things she does with and for people that are really nice,” he said.

Veronee didn’t know Carter May is supported by Catholic Charities, but Caroline Weisberg, director, said that’s really no surprise. She’s been Catholic most of her life, and didn’t understand what the social ministry office was all about.

“The degree to which we serve people has been done quietly, without a lot of fanfare,” she said.

This is good and bad. They don’t want recognition for doing their job, but need people to know what they do so the ministries will receive support.

Even programs people are familiar with, like food pantries, are barely making it, Weisberg said.

In the coming year, there are six programs Catholic Charities wants to promote and offer in all the deaneries: Save A Smile, Clean of Heart, senior services, food pantries, and vision and prescription assistance.

She hopes the upcoming collection will help them achieve this goal, along with the many other ministries they support, like Carter May.

Veronee may be finished with big adventures, but living at Carter May, he still has the chance for small ones. Marvin Veronee shows a book that he wrote about World War II. The veteran lives at the Carter May Home-St. Joseph Residence, which is one of the facilities of Catholic Charities