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Couples for Christ feel power of God

GOOSE CREEK—Couples for Christ-SC held two recent Christian Life Programs in the Upstate and the Lowcountry.

Adorno Father Jason Caganap, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek, was so impressed by the Christian Life Program held at his church in March and April that he asked to replicate it for the Hispanic parishioners, according to a press release.

On June 28-29, the very first Hispanic Christian Life Program in the state was held at Immaculate Conception.

During the two days, children’s activities were held at the All Ministries Center, with outdoor and indoor fun coupled with teachings about the faith.

Brothers Luis Paez and David Sanchez served at the main venue and conducted six talks on the first day.

One of the most powerful sessions occurred on June 29 during “Receiving the Power of the Holy Spirit,” when the presence of the Holy Spirit was felt across all four corners of the venue, according to participants.

With the help of Brothers Luis and David, the service team dedicated 11 couples to Couples for Christ (Parejas Para Cristo), nine individuals to Servants of the Lord, 20 women to Handmaids of the Lord, and 41 children to Kids for Christ (Niños Para Cristo). Four household groups were formed to start their spiritual journey.

Simultaneously, 14 youth were dedicated at the Youth Camp held at Prince of Peace Church in Taylors.

The weekend for Couples for Christ-SC was like Noah’s ark: filled with a diverse group of people from Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua and Spain. Both singles and couples attended, plus children ranging from 6 months to 14 years.

While most people were watching the World Cup, these folks chose to participate in the Christian Life Program. They came with one purpose — to know and learn more of the one true God, the release stated.

The joy of the children who attended was visible. When asked about their experience and what they learned over the weekend, their replies included:
“I learned to love and that God is love.”
 IVAN, 9
“Share my toys …”
“Don’t say bad words.”
“My favorite Bible character is Jesus.”
 BRIAN, 11
“When I grow up, I want to be a priest.”
“Help my mom by cleaning dog poop.”

As the day closed, the non-Spanish-speaking service team laid their hands on the children in prayer, and without prompting, Brian, 11, started praying in Spanish and the other children bowed their heads and joined in.

The Christian Life Program is a conduit for knowledge and love of God. It lets people see how closely intertwined they all are through Christ, in spite of diversity, the release stated.

Submitted by Cheryl Sarmiento and Merlita Carandang.

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Miss SC credits the King of Kings for crown

Lanie HudsonSPARTANBURG—Lanie Hudson shared a small, sacred moment with her mother each day during competition at the 2014 Miss South Carolina pageant.

Mrs. Hudson took a treasured bottle of blessed water from the Holy Land and made the sign of the cross on her daughter’s forehead before she rushed out the door to rehearsals, preliminaries and the all-important final night.

The 23-year-old was crowned Miss South Carolina at the Township Auditorium in Columbia on June 28. The bottle of holy water carefully kept on the TV stand in their hotel room was just one symbol of the vibrant Catholic faith that has surrounded Hudson since birth and helped her deal with the stresses of pageant life.

“It’s really kept me grounded through the whole experience,” she said. “I keep a spiritual journal, and I had my Bible and inspirational books with me throughout the week of the pageant. I say a prayer before going into interviews and other events. It really calms my nerves.”

Hudson is one of three children of Alex and Sherry Hudson, and a member of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg.

She graduated from Paul M. Dorman High School and Clemson University, where she majored in communications. She hopes to use the $25,000 scholarship she received as Miss South Carolina toward a masters degree, with the ultimate goal of becoming a professional buyer in the fashion industry.

Mrs. Hudson said pageants became a part of her daughter’s life in high school. Before that, Lanie focused mainly on her love of dancing. At age 5, she tried clogging, which quickly became her passion.

Over the years, she appeared all over the state with her clogging team and even appeared with them on the popular show “America’s Got Talent.” In this year’s pageant, her talent was a clogging routine to Aretha Franklin’s “Think.”

Dancing didn’t take up all her time, however. Church played a big role. She taught vacation Bible school classes at St. Paul the Apostle, played on church sports teams, and was active in the youth group.

At 16, Hudson decided she wanted to try pageants, and competed in Miss Spartanburg Teen. She eventually finished third at the Miss Teen South Carolina pageant and decided to give Miss South Carolina a second try after finishing fourth in 2013. This year she competed as Miss Anderson.

Pageants aren’t all sequins, pretty smiles and glittery crowns, she said. Preparation is demanding, and includes everything from grueling physical workouts and dance rehearsals to researching current events, because contestants never know what judges might ask them during the interview segment. During the pageant, she answered a question about whether Americans should be allowed to protest outside abortion clinics, in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling about the issue.

“My faith helped me answer that question, because I do believe people should have the freedom to protest, as long as everyone is kept safe,” Hudson said.

She is also passionate about her platform, “The Gift of a Lifetime: Saving Lives through Organ and Tissue Donation.” One of her uncles received a kidney and pancreas 15 years ago and is alive today, she said. Then, a high school friend died in a car accident and seven people benefited after her family chose to donate her organs.

“Through those two experiences, I learned the power of donation and how lives could be saved,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know what it means to be an organ donor or how to even become one. One person can save up to eight lives.”

Pageants also teach unique lessons, such as how to be a successful quick-change artist. Need to get to the dressing room, change from a talent costume into an evening gown, and get back to stage in 10 minutes? No problem.

Since her win, on some days she makes appearances in three parts of the state. Hudson frequently bounces between her home in Spartanburg, an apartment that pageant officials maintain in Hartsville for her and Miss South Carolina Teen, and friends’ homes in Columbia.

“There are always different events, photo shoots, interviews, a celebrity softball game,” Hudson said. “I’ve learned how to pack and live out of my car.”

She is also preparing for the upcoming Miss America pageant in Atlantic City in September. Hudson and her family think she may be the first Catholic to wear the state crown, but no historical information is available either from pageant officials or diocesan records to confirm or deny that.

Either way, she said, she knows her faith played a role in her victory and hopes to show others what God can do if you let Him.

“This experience has really taught me that God is always with us and the Holy Spirit dwells within us,” Hudson said. “I think God was thinking through me. It isn’t always me doing the performance, it was the Lord dancing through me, and showing who Christ is, me being an example and a servant to Him.”

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School pastors learn to address challenges at institute








In just one week, Father Joseph Romanoski increased Hispanic enrollment at his parish school of Blessed Sacrament in Charleston, thanks to a workshop he attended at the School Pastors’ Institute conference held at Notre Dame recently.

The conference is designed to address the unique and complex challenges related to serving as pastor of a parish school. Held July 8-11, it featured a keynote address followed by a series of workshops given by priests.

Father Romanoski said one of his favorite talks was the “Welcome of Latino Children and Families” because it gave great insight to understanding the Spanish-speaking community and ways to open the doors of Catholic education to them.

As soon as he returned to his parish, he put the lessons he learned into practice, issuing a personal invitation to about seven families and meeting with the parents one–on-one.

“My four days at the conference already yielded seven new students from the Hispanic community,” he said. “It was a well worthwhile conference — time well spent.”

Aside from what he learned, Father Romanoski said the campus and spiritual atmosphere were both beautiful.

Sandra Leatherwood, diocesan director for Catholic education, said she recommended the conference to Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, who invited several priests to attend. Aside from Father Romanoski, Father Gary Linsky, pastor of St. Peter Church and School in Columbia, and Father Christopher Smith, administrator of Prince of Peace Church and School in Taylors, also attended.

The School Pastors Institute provides a more global perspective to priests, Leatherwood said, and lets them share common challenges and solutions. The conference this year attracted over 100 pastors from the United States.

Father Romanoski said it’s a great way to re-energize and learn all the newest statistics on Catholic education, plus share insights and tools to help the schools in their mission.

One statistic that gladdens the hearts of school pastors shows that students who attend Catholic schools do better in high school and college and make more of an impact in their community and society as a whole.

There are 28 diocesan and parochial elementary schools that are guided by pastors. The bishop has full oversight of the three diocesan high schools, and oversight of the religious curriculum at the private ones, although all five have chaplains who celebrate Mass and minister to the needs of the student body.

The role of the school pastor, said Father Romanoski, is to provide support, guidance and encouragement to the principal, who is in charge of daily decisions.

“You have to be the backbone for the school,” he said. “My role is to keep fanning the flame of Catholic education.”

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Cretzmeyer discovers a rare vocation to the Church

MURRELLS INLET— Stacy Cretzmeyer, Ph.D., an author and licensed professional counselor, will receive one of the oldest sacramentals in the Church on Aug. 15.

The long-time member of St. Michael Church will be consecrated as a virgin living in the world, according to Canon 604.

The vocation of consecrated virginity dates back to the earliest centuries of the Catholic Church. The consecrated virgin’s mission is to serve the Church as virgin, bride, and mother. She strives to imitate Mary in leading a life of prayer, penance, sacrifice, and service, especially to her diocese.

This is different from vows professed by religious sisters, who follow the charism of their particular community, however.

The consecrated virgin is called to live her apostolate in a personal way, guided by the Holy Spirit. She does not live in a community, but in her own home, and must earn her own living. Cretzmeyer will continue to work as a counselor in private practice, but much of her free time will be spent in prayer, assisting at Mass, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Her canonical status is indicated by a ring.

“This vocation is definitely counter-cultural,” Cretzmeyer said in a press release. “[Father Thomas] Dubay calls it ‘the most radical lifestyle one can imagine.’ It is not easy to give witness to a different way of life, but our Lord gives us the grace to do what He asks of us for the sake of the kingdom.”

She will join in a vocation shared by approximately 200 others who are currently registered in the United States, according to the Association of Consecrated Virgins based in Lansing, Mich.

Though she dated and wanted to marry and have children, Cretzmeyer said she felt a growing call to a deeper relationship with Christ.

“The Lord was making a growing statement to me over a period of years,” she said.

She had a deep desire to help people grow closer to Jesus, but discerned that she did not have a vocation to the religious life. Cretzmeyer was considering making private vows to God when a priest suggested she consider being consecrated to Christ.

“Father Christian Carr, the retired Abbot of Mepkin Abbey, encouraged me to pray about it every day, in the sense of turning my life over to the Lord,” she said. “At the time, I was not ready for such a public witness. I thought I could just make private promises to the Lord, and that would be the end of the vocation question.”

The meaning and focus of her vocation became clear when she joined the Corpus Christi Marian Movement, developed by Father Stanley Smolenski, spma, director of the Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina — Our Lady of Joyful Hope.

A group of prayerful friends helped her form a Corpus Christi Cenacle at St. Michael Church in 2011 that followed the format developed by Father Smolenski. Soon, they decided to make a deeper commitment, and with his guidance, they made their Corpus Christi oblations on Dec. 12, 2011.

Cretzmeyer still felt a growing call to dedicate her life to pray and sacrifice for priests, however.

“The Mass is the source and summit of our Christian life, so we need priests,” she said.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#923): “Virgins who, committed to the holy plan of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.”

By this solemn rite (Consecratio Virginum), the virgin is “constituted… a sacred person, a transcendent sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and an eschatological image of this heavenly Bride of Christ and of the life to come.”

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone will consecrate Cretzmeyer on Aug. 15, the Mass of the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at noon at St. Michael. All are welcome to attend.

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