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Being a monk is a happy vocation for Father Christian

MONCKS CORNER—Any image one might have of a withdrawn monk is shattered within seconds of meeting Father Christian Carr.

Sitting in his office at Mepkin Abbey, he greets his two visitors with enthusiasm, offering a gnarled hand in welcome and launching immediately into an entertaining and intelligent discussion on all manner of topics.

The one thing he doesn’t want to talk about is himself.

Father Christian touches briefly on his accomplishments, but does not dwell on them or go into detail, saying it sounds like bragging. Most people would find his resume more than impressive, but the monk notes: “I don’t impress myself.”

“I’ve had a lot of schooling,” he said, with a twinkle in his eyes, “enough to know I don’t amount to a hill of beans.”

His fellow Trappists and friends would disagree with that statement.

Father Kevin Walsh, the prior at Mepkin, calls Father Christian a wise and holy man, and an all around delightful human being.

He served as the monastery’s second abbott from 1974 to 1989, a time of great transition for the monks, when they were feeling their way from a life of seclusion and silence to the world they’re in now, with open gates, tours and retreats.

The Catholic Miscellany: Offering hospitality is the right thing to do because it allows God's grace and love to flow outward and inward.These were men known for hard manual labor, silence and exclusiveness. They lived behind closed gates and slept on straw mats; but all that changed with a mandate from Vatican II for religious to return to their original charism. For the Trappists, this meant following the rule of Benedict to welcome every guest as the presence of Christ.

Brother John Corrigan remembers that time, and said the very sociable Father Christian was perfectly suited to the job of helping the community see their new role and implement it.

“He did an awful lot of good in a difficult time in Church history,” Brother John said.

Father Christian will celebrate his 100th birthday on Sept. 14, with a private ceremony to honor a lifetime packed with accomplishments, love and laughter.

Born in Galveston, Texas, he talks warmly about his family and his upbringing. He began his religious life as a Franciscan, dedicating 24 years to the order. During that time he earned two doctorates, taught dogma and canon law at the Franciscan seminary near Albany, N.Y., and served as associate editor and then editor of Homiletic and Pastoral Review during the years of the Second Vatican Council.

His life has followed many paths, including stints teaching medical ethics, philosophy and theology. He also spent time in the field of aeronautical engineering, and has a deep love of etymology. He joined the Trappist order in 1969.

Wherever his life took him, it invariably led to some sort of leadership role, Brother John said, adding that he still fills that role today, serving as a wisdom figure for the younger brothers.

When Pope John Paul II visited Columbia in 1987, Father Christian was one of those tapped to mee thim at the airport. He said the pope was the real thing, a true leader and man of greatness because the pontiff was not looking for awe, but for real interaction and moments of friendship.

People have always been important to Father Christian, who said humans are fascinating because they were created by God.

People remember the former abbott joyfully greeting visitors, giving tours of the abbey two times a day, and always being available for spiritual direction.

“He has remained deeply engaged in life and is deeply concerned with the lives of the monks,” said Father Kevin.

The prior often stops by to talk with Father Christian, adding that he never knows what the conversation will be, from quoting poetry to questions of theology and philosophy.

Looking back, Father Christian said offering hospitality is the right thing to do because it allows God’s grace and love to flow outward and inward. Changes occurred — the discipline of silence became less strict, and people wander the grounds — but the essence has not changed. Monks still spend their days learning to love more, and now share and teach it to the outside world that comes to visit.

“I’ve never been happier than being a monk,” Father Christian said.

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Bishop’s Annual Appeal meets target goal, but the work continues

 

Four days a week, homeless men and women come to the Clean of Heart building on Laurel Street in downtown Columbia. Volunteers wash and dry their clothes, while they receive a hot shower, toiletries, and a cup of coffee, plus warm greetings and words of encouragement.

The smiles on their faces show what the ministry, an outreach of Catholic Charities, means to them.

Clean of Heart and other programs like it could not happen without the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.

The campaign reached its target goal of $3 million in late August, but with three months left before it comes to a close, diocesan officials urge people not to stop giving.

Funds are still needed from those who have not donated. The deadline is Dec. 31.

“We’re doing so many good things in terms of reaching out to Catholic Charities, to Catholic education, to other ministries,” said Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone. “There are so many needs in the diocese. I’m delighted people are being so generous, but we also still need the generosity of those who haven’t given yet to continue to make these good things happen.”

So far, 68 percent of parishes have passed their target fundraising goal, said Matthew Dwyer, diocesan director of stewardship and development. Parishes that go above their target receive 50 percent of the overage back to use as they see fit.

Also, as of late August, the diocese had 24 percent of people participating, an improvement on the 21 percent who had responded by the same date in 2013. The goal is for 25 percent to respond.

“Our success is a direct result of God’s grace, the hard work and leadership of our pastors and local parishes, and the significant generosity of our people,” Dwyer said.

He said a multimedia approach to fundraising has helped the appeal, including everything from traditional mailings and bulletin inserts to a special video that was shown at Masses during February.

The BAA is an important source of funding for the 96 parishes and 22 missions around the state. It supports Catholic Charities, college campus ministry, youth ministry and other outreach programs.

Donations help to educate seminarians and promote vocations, support retired priests and the men studying for the permanent diaconate.

Dwyer said the appeal is also crucial for Catholic education in the state, providing an average of $500,000 a year in grants to Catholic schools, helping with financial aid for students and building funds for new and existing schools. Funds from the appeal helped establish the first new diocesan high school in the state in 50 years — John Paul II School in Bluffton — and will do the same for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton High School in Myrtle Beach.

Bishop Guglielmone said outreach to Catholic students at the state’s colleges and universities is also a high priority.

“I made a commitment to campus ministry when I came here, and we’ve seen tremendous results,” he said. “We still have campuses where we need to get the appropriate personnel and programs ... so expanding the campus ministry budget is one important thing I want to focus on.”

Catholic Charities offices around the state rely on funds from the BAA to serve a growing number of clients who need food and financial assistance. In recent years, the agency also has added immigration services in Greenville, Charleston and on Hilton Head Island.

“The appeal is our main source of funding, and without it we could not do what we do,” said Caroline Weisberg, director of Catholic Charities. “We’re serving Catholics and non-Catholics who are in need. This helps us to be the hands and feet of Christ in the community. In everything we do, we’re trying to take a holistic approach, to look at the whole picture of what people need. We want to offer resources to help people not just with food, but with shelter, quality of living, and their health.”

You still have time to make your donation to the BAA. To learn more, visit www.sccatholic.org/stewardship/bishops-annual-appeal.

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People & events

COASTAL

Learn more about the Eucharist
CHARLESTON—The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist will hold training sessions for existing extraordinary ministers of holy Communion interested in a deeper understanding of the institution of the Eucharist beginning in September or October. Contact: Deacon Jerry Remkiewicz, (843) 937-8518 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Full Irish Breakfast cancelled
SUMMERVILLE—The Ancient Order of Hibernians Full Irish Breakfast at St. John the Beloved Church on Sept. 13 has been cancelled.

Spaghetti dinner
MOUNT PLEASANT—Knights of Columbus Council 9475 will hold a spaghetti dinner fundraiser on Sept. 25 from 5-7:30 p.m. at Christ Our King Church hall, 1122 Russell Drive. Children under 6 eat free; 6-11 years $5; adults $8. Tickets available at the door. Dine in or take out.

Catechist workshop
NORTH CHARLESTON—The Coastal Association of Directors of Religious Education will sponsor a catechist workshop on “Teaching About God’s Forgiveness” on Sept. 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at St. Thomas the Apostle, 6650 Dorchester Road. Keynote: Father Jeff Kirby, vicar of vocations. Other speakers include: Sister Donna Lareau, OLM; Sharon Willi; and Sister Mary Francis Epplin, Daughters of St. Paul. Bring laptop, smartphone or pad. Participants earn credit towards basic certification. Registration: $20. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Registration: Sharon Willi, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or (843) 884-5587.

Knights charitable golf tourney
CHARLESTON—The Knights of Columbus Council 12472 golf tournament will be Oct. 5 at 12:30 p.m. at Kiawah Golf Resort. The tournament will include prizes and dinner. Cost: $85, includes greens fees and beverages. Registration: Paul Jacques, (843) 568-8414 or Craig Mason, (864) 293-9138.

LOWCOUNTRY

Wayne Cockfield pro-life talk
HILTON HEAD ISLAND—Wayne Cockfield, vice president for medical ethics of National Right to Life, will speak on “Deadly Compassion,” prolife issues, on Sept. 16 at 4:30 p.m. in the Hilton Head Public Library, 11 Beach City Road. Q&A will follow.

Public vigil and prayer for peace
HILTON HEAD ISLAND—The Peace Ministry of St. Francis by the Sea will hold a public prayer and vigil for building a culture of peace on Sept. 27 at 10 a.m. in the Hilton Head Public Library parking lot, 11 Beach City Road. They will stand along S.C. Highway 278 for a 30-minute vigil.

MIDLANDS

St. Ann golf tournament
SANTEE—St. Ann Church will hold its annual Charity Golf Tournament at the Santee Cooper Country Club on Oct. 4 with a shotgun start at 9 a.m. Cost: $55 each, $30 each for Santee Cooper Country Club members with own cart. Teams: Men’s foursome, ladies’ foursome, two men/two ladies. Entry deadline is Oct. 1. Forms available at stannsantee.org. Details: (803) 854-4037 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Clergy Appreciation Dinner
AIKEN—St. Clare of Assisi Fraternity, at St. Mary Help of Christians, will hold its 10th annual Clergy Appreciation Dinner on Oct. 6 after the 5:30 p.m. Mass. All are welcome to celebrate the priests and deacons who serve the parish. Reservations required by Oct. 1. Tickets at the parish office: $10 per person, $42 per family of five or more, and free for children 4 and under. No tickets at the door. Call Val Cadarr, (803) 649-4777.

Knights car show
AIKEN—Knights of Columbus Council 3684 will hold its annual Fall Car Show on Oct. 11 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 150 Fairfield St., SE. Free for visitors. Car registration: 8 a.m. to noon. Trophies for top 40, best of show and Father’s Choice. Dash plaques to the first 75 to register. Fee for car entry: $20 with registration by Oct. 1 or $25 at the show. Details: carolinathunderracing.com/Car_Show.php. Contact: John R. Shea, (803) 663-1777, or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

St. Joseph retreat
COLUMBIA—St. Joseph Church will hold a retreat on Oct. 10-12 in Kanuga, N.C. Msgr. Leigh Lehocky will celebrate Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation. The theme is “Praying with St. Paul” and will be developed by Sister May Peter Martin, FSP. Cost: $192 each, includes roundtrip bus from St. Joseph Church, meals and lodging. Single occupancy will be an additional $33 per night. Reservations: Sister Julienne Guy, (803) 540-1901.

PEE DEE

Catholic Daughters
MURRELLS INLET—St. Michael Catholic Daughters of the Americas will meet on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. in PAC Hall, 542 Cypress Ave. All members and visitors are invited to attend. The women’s group raises funds for local charities. Refreshments will be served.

Taste of the Town
MYRTLE BEACH—The 31st annual Taste of the Town sponsored by St. Andrew Catholic School will be held Oct. 21. Details: www.TOTMB.com.

Diocesan Rosary Celebration
KINGSTREE—The 12th annual rosary celebration will be held Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. at the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina, Our Lady of Joyful Hope with a rosary, conference and benediction. The focus will be on St. Joseph of the Earthly Trinity. An outdoor statue of the saint was donated by the South Carolina Ancient Order of Hibernians and will be blessed. A social will follow. Bring refreshments to share. Contact: Father Stanley Smolenski, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or (843) 355-3527.

Catholic Charismatic Conference
NORTH MYRTLE BEACH—The 2014 South Carolina Catholic Charismatic Conference, “Give Thanks I Have Chosen You by Name”, with Father Richard McAlear, OMI, will be Oct. 24-26 at Our Lady Star of the Sea. Cost: $42 per person, or $75 for married couples, includes lunch on Saturday. After Oct. 10 it is $10 more. Religious or clergy are free. Registration: Ross Gamble, (803) 788-4480, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or www.screnewal.org.

PIEDMONT

Knights huge yard sale
ANDERSON—The Knights of Columbus will hold a huge yard sale for charity on Sept. 26 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sept. 27 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the yellow building next to St. Mary Church, 1821 White St.

Multi-vendor garage sale
LAKE WYLIE—All Saints Church women’s organization will host a multi-vendor garage sale on Oct. 4 from 8 a.m. to noon in the church parking lot, 530 Highway 274. Contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

PEOPLE & EVENTS includes items of general interest and events that are open to the statewide community. To send a notice, please include time, date, location address, city and contact email and/or phone number with area code. Items are run at the editor’s discretion and publication or frequency is not guaranteed. Send notices at least three weeks in advance of publication date to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For details visit www.themiscellany.org and click on submit news.

 

   

Treat old age like a fine vintage wine, not a disaster

The month of September begins and ends with a focus on the elderly. Since 1978, the first Sunday after Labor Day has been celebrated as National Grandparents Day; this year’s observance falls on Sept. 7.

Later in the month, senior citizens will gather in Rome for a special celebration in their honor at the invitation of Pope Francis. The meeting, entitled “The Blessing of a Long Life,” will take place in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday, Sept. 28.

In announcing the event, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, stated, “The day is based on the assumption that old age is not a shipwreck but a vocation.”

A shipwreck? I suspect what Archbishop Paglia meant was not that advanced age itself is a disaster, but that society’s response to this stage of life is sadly adrift. He suggested that neither politics, economics, nor culture has developed an adequate approach to the contemporary individual needs of older persons or the growing population of seniors as a whole.

The inadequacy of society’s response to the needs and problems of the elderly is nothing new.

In 1982, St. John Paul II suggested that society needed to be “jerked into awareness” with regard to the elderly in order to foster “a vision of the old which is genuinely human and Christian, a vision of old age as a gift of God to the individual, the family and society.” More than 30 years later, the ship seems to have completely lost direction! Pope Francis has deplored our “throwaway culture” and a “hidden euthanasia” which silences and marginalizes the old.

“A nation that does not respect grandparents,” he said, “has no future because it has no memory.”

Pope Francis often evokes the memory of his own paternal grandmother, whom he visited each day as a child and to whom he credits his early spiritual formation.

The pope feels that we live in a time when the elderly do not count. Yet, he asserts, “the elderly pass on history, doctrine, faith and they leave them to us as an inheritance. They are like a fine vintage wine; that is, they have within themselves the power to give us this noble inheritance.”

In a homily about the elderly Eleazar, who accepted death rather than give bad example to the young (Mc 6:18-31), our Holy Father related the following story he heard as a young child and never forgot: “There was a father, mother and their many children, and a grandfather lived with them. He was quite old, and when he was at table eating soup, he would get everything dirty: his mouth, the napkin … it was not a pretty sight! One day the father said that given what was happening to the grandfather, from that day on, he would eat alone. So he bought a little table, and placed it in the kitchen.

“And so the grandfather ate alone in the kitchen while the family ate in the dining room. After some days, the father returned home from work and found one of his children playing with wood. He asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ to which the child replied, ‘I am playing carpenter.’ ‘And what are you building?’ the father asked. ‘A table for you, papa, for when you get old like grandpa.’ ”

Although each of us alone may be powerless to influence policies or economic decisions regarding the elderly, we can change the culture in our own families.

To begin, do not let the month of September pass without pausing to reflect and thank God for the precious legacy you have received from grandparents or other significant elders in your life.

And then, be sure to set a place at your table for the elderly, regardless of their limitations.

 

Teach your children to reverence the old and one day you will be considered fine vintage wine in the heart of your own family. You will experience the blessing of a long life.

SISTER CONSTANCE VEIT is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

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