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Sister Deanna is a role model for wisdom and fairness

CHARLESTON—As Sister Deanna Bartolomei enters her golden jubilee year with the sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, she finds herself at a crossroads.

She has been at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist for 16 years and is leaving her spot as pastoral associate once they find a replacement, although Msgr. Stephen Brovey, pastor, said that will be difficult to do.

“I see in her a great wisdom and I’ve always gone to her seeking guidance,” he said.

Sister Deanna has worked in schools and parishes since she first professed her vows in 1964, and has made an impact on many lives along the way.

When one of her former students, Matt Piotrowsky, was named Student Teacher of the Year, he was praised for teaching from the heart. Piotrowsky credited his favorite teacher for his success —none other than Sister Deanna.

“I learned more in the nine months I spent in her classroom than I did in all my other years of school,” he said at the time.

Sister Deanna downplays her own contributions. Sitting at her tidy desk, she smiles and speaks softly, but with obvious authority and sharp intelligence. She deflects the conversation from herself, talking instead about the courage of other sisters, especially those on the front lines of prominent issues.

Her love and respect for her community is obvious as she applauds their willingness to follow Jesus and do whatever it takes to serve others.

Those who know Sister Deanna said she is right up there at the top of that list.

“She’s amazing,” said Marie Donnelly, who works in senior ministry at Christ Our King Church and has known Sister Deanna for 13 years. “She has such a sense of justice and fairness, and she’s able to apply it to all her ministry.”

Fairness and justice are essential in her role as a counselor to engaged couples or those seeking annulments, or even during Bible study.

Sister Deanna speaks passionately about the Gospels and trying to follow Christ’s example, noting in particular how inclusive and humble He was.

“You have to be able to love unconditionally and that’s very hard because you have to accept people as is,” she said.

That was a quality she saw in the Franciscans who taught her in school, and it pulled her even at an early age.

“I witnessed how happy they were. They were just very joyful, and always willing to help,” she said. “I think I knew from grade school that I was going to join those sisters.”

Although she has spent most of her life in the Diocese of Charleston— opting to come here for the challenge of mission work in the ’60s — she grew up in New Jersey with her brother John and parents Otileo and Yolanda, who emigrated from Italy.

After graduating from Catholic high school, she worked very briefly as a bank teller, but said she knew right away that life wasn’t for her. She wanted to be a Franciscan, but was not enthused about either of the associated career options: nursing or teaching.

“God calls us sometimes to do things we don’t want to do. God doesn’t let go. It can be very irritating at times,” she said, smiling. “So you do, and you enjoy, and your learn from those around you.”

Her sense of humor, along with a lot of prayer, has guided her through the good times and bad, and made her a favorite among friends and coworkers.

Linda Lyons, Cathedral secretary, has worked with “Sister D” all 16 years. The first thing she comments on is the Franciscan’s sense of humor and her ability to comfort those who are hurting.

“Sister Deanna has been one of my favorite people since the moment I met her, from when she first walked in the door,” Lyons said, adding that she will be missed terribly when she leaves.

The Franciscan said her decision took a lot of prayer, but she feels her rheumatoid arthritis is preventing her from giving the 100-plus percent that people deserve. Walking is painful, but one thing she will not give up is visiting the sick and homebound and taking them Communion.

“She’s a very good person,” said Esther Tecklenberg, Cathedral member. “She’s very brave and has a good outlook on life to visit sick people, because it isn’t easy.”

Sister Deanna said there won’t be a lot of fanfare at her farewell, nor for her 50th jubilee. It will be quiet and simple, like her life.

“I’ve had a great time as a Sister of St. Francis,” she said, noting that her vocation opened many doors to meet people and travel, including Rome, England, France and Ireland.

One thing she has never done in her ministry is work with the poor, marginalized or oppressed, she said. But now she’s moving to new adventures and plans to volunteer at Neighborhood House with her dear friend and fellow Franciscan, Sister Noreen Buttimer.

“I think God’s calling me now to go in that direction,” she said.

As Donnelly said, “Our loss, wherever she lands, is going to be someone else’s gain.”

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Family synod report: Welcome gays, nonmarital unions

Cardinals talk at synodBy Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service

In strikingly conciliatory language on situations contrary to Catholic teaching, an official midterm report from the Synod of Bishops on the family emphasized calls for greater acceptance and appreciation of divorced and remarried Catholics, cohabitating couples and homosexuals.
"It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God and the will to feel fully part of the church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations," Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest told Pope Francis and the synod Oct. 13.

Cardinal Erdo, who as the synod's relator has the task of guiding the discussion and synthesizing its results, gave a nearly hourlong speech that drew on the synod's first week of discussions.
"Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community," the cardinal said. "Often they wish to encounter a church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and evaluating their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?"
The statement represents a marked shift in tone on the subject for an official Vatican document. While the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls for "respect, compassion and sensitivity" toward homosexuals, it calls their inclination "objectively disordered." A 1986 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called homosexuality a "more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil." In 2003, the doctrinal congregation stated that permitting adoption by same-sex couples is "gravely immoral" and "would actually mean doing violence to these children."
While Cardinal Erdo said that same-sex unions present unspecified "moral problems" and thus "cannot be considered on the same footing" as traditional marriage, he said they also can exemplify "mutual aid to the point of sacrifice (that) constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners."
He noted that the "church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority."
The cardinal said a "new sensitivity in the pastoral care of today consists in grasping the positive reality of civil marriages and ... cohabitation," even though both models fall short of the ideal of sacramental marriage.
"In such unions it is possible to grasp authentic family values or at least the wish for them," he said. "All these situations have to be dealt with in a constructive manner, seeking to transform them into opportunities to walk toward the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel. They need to be welcomed and accompanied with patience and delicacy."
Similarly, the cardinal said, divorced and civilly remarried Catholics deserve an "accompaniment full of respect, avoiding any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against."
Cardinal Erdo noted that various bishops supported making the annulment process "more accessible and flexible," among other ways, by allowing bishops to declare marriages null without requiring a trial before a church tribunal.
One of the most discussed topics at the synod has been a controversial proposal by German Cardinal Walter Kasper that would make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive communion, even without an annulment of their first, sacramental marriages.
Cardinal Erdo said some synod members had spoken in support of the "present regulations," which admit such Catholics to Communion only if they abstain from sexual relations, living with their new partners as "brother and sister."
But the cardinal said other bishops at the assembly favored a "greater opening" to such second unions, "on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of graduality, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances."
As a historical example of the "law of graduality," which he said accounts for the "various levels through which God communicates the grace of the covenant to humanity," the cardinal quoted Jesus' words in the Gospel of St. Matthew (19:8) acknowledging that, "because of the hardness of your hearts, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so."
Critics of Cardinal Kasper's proposal commonly cite the Gospel's following verse, in which Jesus states that "whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery."
At a news conference following the synod's morning session, Cardinal Erdo said no one at the synod had questioned church teaching that Jesus' prohibition of divorce applies to all Christian sacramental marriages.
Also at the news conference, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, one of the assembly's three presidents chosen by Pope Francis, said Cardinal Erdo's speech "is not to be considered a final document from the synod," but a pretext for the further discussion, which concludes Oct. 18.
The synod is not supposed to reach any definitive conclusions, but set the agenda for a larger world synod to be held Oct. 4-25, 2015, which will make recommendations to the pope. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the synod, announced Oct. 13 that the theme of next's year assembly will be: "The vocation and mission of the family in the church and in the modern world."

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone said the Diocese of Charleston is paying close attention to the synod discussions.

“The Catholic Church has always upheld the dignity of every human person, including people with same sex attraction, divorced men and women, and cohabitating couples,” he said in a statement released to the media today. “Once the final Synod report is released, we will take the document’s conclusions to heart as we pastorally reach out to people in a manner that is consistent with Church teachings.”

PHOTO: Cardinals Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, and Timothy M. Dolan of New York speak before the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 13. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Read more about the synod here:



Prince of Peace is named a National Blue Ribbon School

TAYLORS—Prince of Peace School joined the prestigious ranks of National Blue Ribbon Schools of excellence.

The Piedmont school, founded in 2002, was recently named a 2014 Blue Ribbon School by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. It is one of six schools in South Carolina, and one of 50 private schools in the nation to receive the honor.

"It's a great award to win," said Michael Pennell, principal. "It's the highest academic award you can receive."

Pennell said he spoke to Father Christopher Smith, administrator, about the Catholic aspect of the award, pointing out that for their school, it's about tying together all the elements of a person's education into the formation of their soul.

The school community celebrated the news with cake, balloons, announcements, and lots of cheering.

Pennell said he will travel to Washington, D.C., with two of his teachers — Jay and Chris Martinez — on Nov. 10-11 to receive the award.

The school is planning an official celebration on Dec. 5.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap. The award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content.

Other 2014 award winners for the state include Hanahan Elementary and Hanahan Middle Schools in Berkeley County School District, Royall Elementary in Florence School District, Socastee Elementary in Horry County School District, and West View Elementary in Spartanburg School District 6.

Other Catholic schools to earn Blue Ribbon status in recent years include St. Mary in Greenville, Christ Our King-Stella Maris in Mount Pleasant, St. Andrew in Myrtle Beach and St. John Neumann in Columbia.



Giving a few hours for life

5 P.M. Rush hour is in full swing on Grove Road near the Gantt neighborhood of Greenville. Cars, trucks, and vans speed past the Greenville Women’s Clinic, the thrum of motors punctured a few times by wails of ambulance sirens and other emergency vehicles headed to a nearby hospital.

On a small patch of earth nearby, Greg Bida sits quietly praying the rosary shortly after 5 p.m. on a Thursday, seemingly oblivious to the noise.

Bida, a member of St. Luke Church in Easley, is one of thousands of volunteers who will spend time along roadways big and small around South Carolina and the nation this fall, taking part in round-the-clock prayer vigils outside abortion clinics like this one as part of the 40 Days for Life.

“This is my sixth year doing this during the spring and fall,” Bida said. “I’m out here because I feel really strongly about pro-life issues. My sister got pregnant at a young age and choose to keep her baby, and because of that I don’t understand how anyone could go about having an abortion.”

Bida brings his rosary and missal with him for his solitary vigil.

Usually he gets no response, he said, but most people are friendly — honking horns or giving the thumbs-up sign.

Some folks aren’t so nice. Around 5:30 p.m. a man and woman in a battered green Ford Taurus station wagon stop dead in the middle of the busy road near the wooden stump where Bida sits. Other motorists jam on their brakes or swerve to avoid them. One person in the wagon yells something unintelligible and makes an obscene gesture. They turn around in a nearby driveway, drive past, turn around again and move slowly by Bida. He admits the behavior is strange, but doesn’t get upset. Eventually the green station wagon goes away. Bida quietly goes back to his rosary.

6 P.M. Three men arrive to take Bida’s place: Ray Ireland, Jim Canvin and Tommy Smith. As they prepare for their hour, they stand in the cooling afternoon air and talk about what brings them to the side of the road. They tell personal stories and describe spiritual revelations they had over the years that convinced them how precious life is and why abortion is evil.

“Just the experience of seeing our children grow up, looking at the pictures of my grandchildren, that lets me know this is a terrible, terrible sin,” Mr. Ireland said. His wife Ingrid shares his commitment. She prayed here earlier in the day and is one of the organizers of 40 Days for Life in the Upstate.

Conversation over, the three turn to what brought them here.

They stand in a small circle together, praying the rosary. Ireland reads pro-life meditations at the start of each mystery. The other two close their eyes and recite the Hail Marys fervently, uninterrupted by the last waves of rush hour that pass by.

7 P.M. Haney and Tina Armaly from Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville pull into the parking lot of the Piedmont Women’s Center, a crisis pregnancy center located right next door to the clinic. They finish a fast-food dinner they grabbed on the way to the vigil, then get out of their car, he in a three-piece suit and she in a stylish blouse and skirt. Both came straight from work.

“A while ago I was asking God to guide me, I said I want to serve you in some way,” Mrs. Armaly said. “This is what came to me. I really feel like I’m called for the pro-life cause.”

They walk toward the area where they will pray. Mr. Armaly stops for a moment near the red wooden fence that surrounds the clinic and looks at signs posted there.

“PLEASE DON’T BLOCK THE DRIVEWAY WITH YOUR VEHICLES” is written in Spanish and English. There’s something different about the Spanish sign.

Whoever made it put a small picture of the Blessed Mother surrounded by rosary beads in the top right hand corner.

Shortly after 7 p.m., they are joined by others who will share the hour with them: Richard and Marianne Stoddard and Kim Nguyen, also from Our Lady of the Rosary. The Stoddards have participated in 40 Days for Life vigils for about 10 years. Nguyen, like the Armalys, started this year.

The four greet each other, talk briefly, then begin to pray the rosary. There is no more conversation, just the gentle rise and fall of praying voices as the traffic subsides. Crickets and a few random, early-fall cicadas can be heard from the trees. When the rosary is finished, they recite other prayers and softly sing verses of hymns they know, beginning with “How Great Thou Art.”

As darkness descends, Mr. Stoddard pulls up a music track on his smartphone and the little circle of people begin to softly sing the hymn “One Bread, One Body.” Their voices carry over the road as the vigil continues into the night.


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