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St. Jude prepares for its big anniversary

Since childhood, Vernessa Baker has witnessed a lot of growth and change at St. Jude Church in Sumter.

She attended the parish school during her elementary years and went to Mass there for many years with her Catholic husband before she herself joined the faith about 20 years ago.

Now, she’s organizing St. Jude’s 75th anniversary celebration which will be held Nov. 1.

Priests from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate came to Sumter in 1939 to found the church.

“It started as a predominantly black parish, a missionary church for the black community,” Baker said. “Now, it’s become a truly multicultural church. Working on this event has been exciting and tiring, but brought a feeling of joy more than anything else. It’s wonderful to hear the stories people tell.”

St. Jude was a beacon of hope for members of the community who had to live in the thick of segregation. Sisters of St. Mary of Namur from Buffalo arrived in 1948 to work with the Oblates, and opened St. Jude School in August of that year. The parish also helped support St. Jude Catholic High School, which closed in 1997.

St. Jude existed as its own separate parish until 2010, when it was merged with St. Anne Church to form the Catholic Community of Sumter.

In recent years, the Spanish-speaking community has grown, and Mass is now celebrated at the West Oakland Avenue site at 1 p.m. every Sunday. There is also a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe on the property which has become a popular place to stop, pray and meditate.

You can read more about the history of St. Jude and how members are celebrating the milestone anniversary in the Nov. 6 edition of The Catholic Miscellany.



St. Anthony of Padua celebrates 75 years

GREENVILLE—W.C. Daniels has seen a lot of change in his 92 years.

He remembers when black people and white people couldn’t worship together in Southern churches. He recalls when the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in the front yard of his beloved St. Anthony of Padua Church. And he reluctantly recites all the labels given to him — Negro, black, African-American.

“One thing however has not changed,” he told a crowd of hundreds packed into the gym at St. Anthony of Padua School on Oct. 18. “What has not changed is that I have always been Catholic, and I will always be Catholic.”

Daniels, the oldest member of the parish, joined with friends old and new Oct. 17-19 to show pride in their faith and heritage, and celebrate the church’s 75th anniversary.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone attended the Oct. 18 banquet, which featured Daniels and dozens of others sharing stories of the early years. Several people traveled from out of state to mark the milestone, and the crowd included long time members like Deacon Henry Dillard, who parish historians say was the first black Catholic ordained to the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Charleston.

Hundreds also flocked to Conestee Park on Oct. 19 for a parish picnic.

St. Anthony of Padua from its beginnings was a haven for those who faced discrimination because of their race and were also a distinct minority in the largely Protestant community. They had no place of their own to worship until the mid-1930s, when Father Sydney F. Dean, a priest assigned to St. Mary Church in downtown Greenville, started ministering to the community.

Families first worshipped together in the basement at St. Francis Hospital. Planning and construction for a mission church started in early 1939, according to a published church history, and St. Anthony of Padua was formally dedicated by Bishop Emmet M. Walsh in October of that year.

Franciscan priests and sisters have served the church since its beginning, and the current pastor is Franciscan Father Patrick Tuttle.

Membership has fluctuated over the decades. It was down to only about 150 in 2005, but a recent surge has boosted the flock to over 1,200, including more people of Asian and Hispanic heritage.

Both black and white Catholics attended the parish from its earliest years, a fact which led to the Klan’s cross-burning. That didn’t stop the faithful from attending, members said.

Gally Gallivan, who grew up at St. Anthony of Padua, remembers both the hard times and good times. His parents were one of the first white families to join the new church.

“I was a former altar boy, although I remember Father Bob threw me off the altar 18 different times for misbehaving,” he said.

Gallivan is proud that his parish has always been dedicated to ministering to people in need.

“This has always been an oasis for the poor, and I hope I’ve been influenced by what I’ve learned here,” he said. “St. Anthony’s mission is especially important in the culture we live in, which denies the importance of helping the poor.”

Theresa Lockhart, 89, has been a member for 75 years. She was not raised Catholic but said she was one of the first members of the first religious education class to convert, even though her parents didn’t approve initially.

“I can remember we studied that old Baltimore catechism,” she said, receiving laughter and knowing nods from several others, who also told stories of long study sessions memorizing passages during classes held by Franciscan nuns, who often taught outside under the trees.

“I wouldn’t be anything else but a member of St. Anthony,” she said. “I look around here and I know so many of you, many of you since you were born. I’ve had a beautiful life at this church and I’ll be here until they take me out of it.”

Education is also an important part of the St. Anthony of Padua story. The parish school was founded in 1951 to educate black students in the neighborhood surrounding the church. Classes were held in a farmhouse, then in an old cinder block building first built in 1956. After a long fundraising campaign, a beautiful new building was erected and dedicated in 2013.

Former students recalled how the school taught them not only academics, but important moral lessons.

Gwen Whitner said one day she came to school to discover that a classmate’s mother had died the night before. The boy still showed up for class.

“The sister told us that every one of us needed to work to make him feel better that day, and that was what we did,” she said. “I think if more children today learned to be empathetic like we were taught that we wouldn’t have as much trouble as we have.”

The church on Gower Street has always offered a beacon of welcome for those in need of help, physically and spiritually, and that was what drew Mary Mujahid shortly after she arrived in Greenville in 2005 after losing everything to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

She wasn’t Catholic when she started attending Mass at St. Anthony, but was drawn to the faith by the messages she heard from the pulpit and the warmth of the people.

“People say Hurricane Katrina brought me here, but I always say it was almighty God that brought me to this parish,” she said.

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Synod ends by affirming tradition, leaving questions open

VATICAN CITY—After several days of animated debate over its official midterm report, the Synod of Bishops on the family agreed on a final document more clearly grounded in traditional Catholic teaching. Yet the assembly failed to reach consensus on especially controversial questions of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried and the pastoral care of homosexuals.

The synod’s last working session, Oct. 18, also featured a speech by Pope Francis, in which he celebrated the members’ frank exchanges while warning against extremism in the defense of tradition or the pursuit of progress.

Discussions in the synod hall had grown heated after the Oct. 13 delivery of a midterm report that used strikingly conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to church teaching, including divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, cohabitating couples and those in same-sex unions.

The summaries of working-group discussions, published Oct. 16, showed a majority of synod fathers wanted the final document to be clearer about relevant church doctrine and give more attention to families whose lives exemplify that teaching.

The final report, which the pope ordered published almost at once after the synod’s conclusion, featured many more citations of Scripture, as well as new references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the teachings of Pope Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict VI.

Synod fathers voted on each of the document’s 62 paragraphs. All received a simple majority, but three failed to gain the two-thirds supermajority ordinarily required for approval of synodal documents.

Two of those paragraphs dealt with a controversial proposal by German Cardinal Walter Kasper that would make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion. The document noted disagreements on the subject and recommended further study.

The document’s section on homosexuality, which also fell short of supermajority approval, was significantly changed from its counterpart in the midterm report.

The original section heading —”welcoming homosexuals” — was changed to “pastoral attention to persons with homosexual orientation.”

A statement that same-sex unions can be a “precious support in the life of the partners” was removed.

The final report quoted a 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters that the absence of a supermajority indicated a lack of consensus and a need for more discussion, but stressed that none of the document carried doctrinal weight. The synod’s final report will serve as an agenda for the October 2015 world synod on the family, which will make recommendations to the pope.

Pope Francis said he welcomed the assembly’s expressions of disagreement.

“Personally, I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these temptations and these animated discussions,” the pope said, “if everybody had agreed or remained silent in a false and quietistic peace.”

“So many commentators, or people who talk, imagined they saw the church quarreling, one part against the other, even doubting the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of unity and harmony in the church,” he said.

While reassuring the assembly that the church’s unity was not in danger, Pope Francis warned against several temptations that he said had been present during the two-week synod.

One of the temptations he cited was that of “hostile rigidity” that seeks refuge in the letter of the law, “in the certainty of what we know and not of what we must still learn and achieve.” This temptation, he said, is characteristic of the “zealous, the scrupulous, the attentive and — today — of the so-called traditionalists and also of intellectuals.”

Another temptation for the synod fathers, the pope said, was that of “destructive do-goodism, which in the name of a misguided mercy binds up wounds without first treating and medicating them; that treats symptoms and not causes and roots. It is the temptation of do-gooders, of the timorous and also of the so-called progressives and liberals.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement that he was “grateful that the clarifications and deepening of scriptural and theological reflection shine consistently” through the final report. “Now the real work begins!”


LARCUM bishops continue their discussion on education

COLUMBIA—Living in poverty doesn’t just affect a child’s physical quality of life, such as what they eat, what they wear and where they live. It can also have a profound effect on their brain and how they learn, influencing not only how they do in school but their chance for success later in life.

These stark realities were discussed at the annual Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic and United Methodist Bishops’ Dialogue on Oct. 13 at Our Lady of the Hills Church.

Tammy Pawloski, director of the Center for Excellence and professor of early childhood education at Francis Marion University, was the keynote speaker. She used statistics to show how poverty impacts the way students function in a classroom.

The information is crucial to implementing the public education initiative set forth in the LARCUM bishops’ pastoral letter, issued in April, which set out a commitment to support public education in the state.

“It’s a myth that poverty doesn’t matter in the classroom,” Pawloski said. “Some people say ‘teaching is teaching,’ but if you think that, talk to a teacher in a Title 1 school and listen to their struggles.” Title 1 schools have large numbers of students from low-income families.

Pawloski described how the brains of infants and young children are influenced by positive stimuli and factors such as touch, conversation, good nutrition, constant opportunities for learning and social interaction. Kids who come from families with more financial resources, for instance, often hear more words spoken each day and build bigger vocabularies from an early age than low-income children.

Living in poverty often means dealing with constant stress, and Pawloski illustrated how that can influence brain activity. Stress factors include everything from not having enough to eat to not being able to take part in school activities or other programs because of cost. Even something as simple as a teacher scolding a student for not bringing the right school supplies can exacerbate stress.

Intense stress can reduce your measured IQ, she said, adding that it affects physical and mental health, and the ability to pay attention.

She said that being born into or living in poverty does not mean children can’t improve and develop over time. That’s where the church community can step in, she said, to help kids access resources they might not have at home.

That help could take many forms, she said, by donating school supplies and money to help students participate in school activities or books and conversation.

“One thing we all can do is find a way to interact,” she said. “It can be as simple as somebody volunteering to go in and read with kids, help them grow that vocabulary.”

Faith communities can help relieve stress on poor families by helping parents with transportation or medical costs, or finding ways to teach students organizational and communication skills they might not have.

“The problem for many of these kids is not a lack of love, it’s a lack of resources,” she said. “If you change the child’s experience, you change the brain. Environment matters ... We have to be the touchstone for kids in poverty.”

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