Seminarian turned guardian angel saves the day

Seminarian Michael Ghattas, shown here at the diocesan formation house, intervened in a domestic dispute while he was out jogging.

CHARLESTON—When Michael Ghattas put on his running shoes recently, he had no idea that his routine daily run would turn into a chance to serve as a guardian angel.

Ghattas, a seminarian for the Diocese of Charleston, was staying with his fellow seminarians at a house on Orange Grove Road, where they had been since COVID-19 erupted in March and kept them from returning to classes after spring break.

He is an avid runner and said his daily runs took him down Orange Grove Road, where he would then turn right to run over a nearby bridge with its scenic view of marshlands and water.

On this particular day, Ghattas was near the CVS pharmacy on Sam Rittenburg Boulevard when he saw something that he immediately recognized wasn’t normal.

“A car pulled over on the side of the road, a girl that was maybe in her early 20s got out of the passenger seat and the driver was grabbing at her and trying to hit her,” Ghattas said in a recent interview. “Then they got out of the car and started fighting. I stopped and I tried to separate them. I asked them ‘What is going on, can we talk about this?’ The man said she was the mother of his child and he acted like this gave him the right to hit her. The woman asked me to call 911.”

He didn’t get the chance to reach for his phone, however, because the man went after the woman again.

“He grabbed her shirt and tried to throw her back in the car,” Ghattas said. “I separated them again and pushed him away, and said this is not happening. When I did that, she crossed the street and he went after her again. He hit her, grabbed her hair, grabbed her phone so she could not call the police, and kicked her in the leg. I went after him, used my hands to separate them and she got away. She went into the CVS and called the police.”

Ghattas later learned from the officers that the man was familiar to them and had done something similar to the woman before.

His daily run put him in the right place at the right time to save the woman from harm. Ghattas said he didn’t think twice about stepping in.

“You see a girl getting hit like that, and your first instinct is to stop it,” he said. “I would hope that anybody who saw something like that would get involved.”

Father Matthew Gray, vicar for vocations, said he heard Ghattas nonchalantly mention the incident during a conversation with others a few days later.

“I was really proud of him when I heard about what he had done,” Father Gray said. “I wasn’t surprised that he intervened because he is a wonderful guy, and he is an example of our group of seminarians as a whole, who are just wonderful guys in general.”

Ghattas, who is from Myrtle Beach, is now heading home for the summer and will take a year off in 2021 to discern whether God wants him to continue with his seminary studies or follow a different path.