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Hundreds prepare to join the Church at Rite of Election

Donna Roberts was raised Protestant but drifted among several denominations during her life, never quite feeling she’d found the right fit. She remembers exactly when she realized she wanted to become a Catholic.
“I was invited to go to Mass and walked through those doors and there He was on the cross, and I knew I was home,” she said.
Roberts, who attends RCIA classes at St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton, joined many others who reached an important milestone in their efforts to join the Church at Rite of Election ceremonies held March 7-10.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated the rite for the Piedmont deanery March 7 at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville; the Midlands deanery March 8 at Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia; the Coastal and Lowcountry deaneries at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist March 9; and the Pee Dee deanery March 10 at St. James Church in Conway.
About 340 men and women statewide took part in the ceremonies, said Michael Martocchio, director of the Office of Catechesis and Christian education for the diocese.
The event, traditionally held around the first Sunday of Lent, offers candidates and catechumens a way to cement their commitment to enter the Church at Easter Vigil services on Holy Saturday.
At the vigil, catechumens receive the sacraments of baptism, holy Communion and confirmation. Candidates, who have already been baptized in other Christian denominations, come into full communion with the Church by receiving the Eucharist and being confirmed.
In his homily at the Charleston ceremony, Bishop Guglielmone said people often spend much of their lives on fruitless efforts to find themselves or discover meaning in worldly things. By seeking to join the Church, he said, the men and women were on a higher journey.
“Our hearts remain restless until we meet God,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “My hope and prayer is that you are here because you want to find something more, a way to become close to God, and find that experience in the Catholic Church, through the life of the sacraments that give us a chance to encounter God over and over.”
The day’s readings, he said, offered a look at how worldly forces will constantly threaten those who seek God. He cited the stories of Adam and Eve in the garden and Jesus’ temptation by the devil during his 40 days in the desert. During the rite, catechumens lined up to sign the Book of the Elect. The candidates stood with their sponsors for a special prayer and blessing.
Leah Frank, a catechumen who attends St. Francis by the Sea Church in Hilton Head, said she was never really religious until her mother and other Catholic family members encouraged her to start going to church two years ago. She was thoughtful and quietly awestruck after the rite held at the Cathedral.
“The ceremony today was life changing,” she said. “After what feels like a very long time of study and work, it’s incredible to know we’re that much closer to God.”
Roberts, meanwhile, fought back tears of emotion and said she was so overcome she almost couldn’t sign the book.
She first became interested in the Church when she helped take care of a close friend who was Catholic during her fight with breast cancer, Roberts said. After that memorable experience of going to a church, she bought a Catholic bible, a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prayer books and other materials and signed up for RCIA.
“This whole journey is a spiritual process, a wonderful thing,” she said. “I’m finally finding peace. The Church is what I’ve always wanted, but I didn’t know it until I saw Christ with his arms open, welcoming me.”

 

Break-in foiled at St. John Church

 

NORTH CHARLESTON—Brother Ed Bergeron recently found the answer to the question “what’s behind door number one?” to be a rather dangerous one.

St. John Church interior - North Charleston

Brother Ed, of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, is the parish life facilitator at St. John Church and lives in the attached rectory. At about 8:30 p.m. on March 11, he was walking to the kitchen to put some ice in his Coke and heard noises coming from the church, he said. He opened the connecting door and to his surprise found an intruder standing there.

“I said ‘Buddy, you don’t want to tangle with me and I don’t want to tangle with you so you better be gone before the police arrive,’” he recalled.

Brother Ed then calmly stepped back, shut the door and locked it.

The police arrived minutes later thanks to a call by the school custodian who had seen the man and heard the break-in, Brother Ed said. The intruder was gone by then but left some clues for the crime scene team. The suspect had smashed the glass in the front door and reached in to unlock the deadbolt. In the process, he cut himself and police were able to get fingerprints and a blood sample, Brother Ed said.

Nothing was taken.St. John Church - North Charleston

“There is nothing in the church other than pews and hymnbooks, so if he wants to spend time in prayer, he’s welcome,” said Brother Ed.

The composed parish life facilitator was not shaken by the experience and had the windows fixed the next day.

“God continues to take care of me,” he said.

 

 

 

 

Pastoral assignments

CHARLESTON—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone has made four pastoral appointments for the Diocese of Charleston.

Effective March 1:

 

  • Father H. Gregory West, pastor at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Seneca, and St. Francis Mission in Walhalla, is appointed as the founding pastor for the Catholic community on Daniel Island; and
  • Father William S. Hearne, parochial vicar at Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant, is appointed administrator at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Seneca and St. Francis Mission in Walhalla.

Effective March 3:

  • Father Gregory B. Wilson, in addition to his duties as pastor of St. Mary Help of Christians Church and School in Aiken, is appointed administrator of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Edgefield.

Effective March 10:

  • Father Raymond J. Carlo, former pastor of St. Michael Church in Garden City, is appointed pastor of Corpus Christi Church in Lexington with sacramental responsibilities at Stevenson Correctional Institution.

 

 

After six decades of marriage, that’s amore

BLUFFTON—Bob Gardner, 76, and Christine Connolly, 70, are proof that it’s never too late to find love.

They both were married for a long time — he for 48 years, she for 38 — when they lost their spouses shortly after moving to the Sun City retirement village in Bluffton. They met at a big band dance in 2009 and quickly discovered they had a lot in common.

“I didn’t have marriage in my head, and [Bob] wasn’t looking for anyone, but we had a good feeling and then love grew, and then we wanted to get it blessed by God,” Mrs. Connolly said. “We were married over Thanksgiving weekend in 2010.”

Their union was one of hundreds honored at the annual Marriage Anniversary Celebration held Feb. 16 at St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton.

The turnout was one of the largest in its 14-year history. The church seats about 850 and was filled with people standing along the sides and crowding the narthex. About 400 couples registered in advance for the celebration and received commemorative certificates, but many attended without registering, said Kathy Schmugge, director of the Diocese of Charleston’s Office of Family Life which sponsored the event.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass and led the couples in a renewal of their vows. He thanked them for their commitment to traditional marriage and urged them to act as role models for young people.

The event drew newlyweds plus dozens of couples who had been married 50 years or more. Darrell and Dorothy Brown of Bluffton, who have been married 63 years, attended with daughter Jeaneen Campbell and her husband Andy Campbell, visiting from Helena, Mont. Mrs. Campbell said it was an unexpected treat to celebrate 30 years of marriage alongside her parents.

Joseph and Loretta Jarzynka, who attend St. Francis by the Sea Church in Hilton Head, were one of two couples celebrating 65 years. They grew up near each other in Ambridge, Pa., but didn’t meet until 1949. He was playing a basketball game with other local World War II veterans that Mrs. Jarzynka and a friend had come to watch. They now have two children and five grandchildren.

“The key to staying together as long as we have is not to argue, and to respect each other,” Mr. Jarzynka said. “Our faith has also been very important to us all this time. I know that somebody above has been watching over us.”

It was impossible to say how many participants were celebrating a second marriage after being widowed or receiving an annulment, but Mrs. Connolly said she and her husband offer a positive example for people who are seeking a relationship later in life.

“If you have lost someone, thank God for them, but don’t let the memories keep you back,” she said. “Let go and let God. Find happiness in your memories, don’t dwell in your loss and move ahead. For people who have never been married, if you find someone and love happens to come your way, let nothing stand in your way. God put that person in your path for a reason.”

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