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People of Life Awards honor three during pro-life leadership conference

CHARLESTON—Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., of Boston, chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, presented three People of Life Awards for lifetime commitment to the pro-life movement on July 28 during the annual Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference.

They went to the Little Sisters of the Poor, Sheila Hopkins and the late George Wesolek.

Over 150 diocesan, state and national Catholic pro-life leaders and guests from across the country attended the private awards dinner held in Charleston and sponsored by the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

The award recognizes Catholics who have answered the call outlined by Pope John Paul II in The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae 1995), dedicating themselves to pro-life activities and promoting respect for the dignity of the human person. It is bestowed in honor of their significant contributions to the culture of life.

The Little Sisters of the Poor were recognized for their dedication in serving the elderly poor and doing so with integrity in the face of pressure to compromise their principles. The international congregation of women religious currently serves 13,000 elderly poor in 31 countries, with 30 nursing homes/assisted living facilities in the United States.

The HHS mandate would make the sisters facilitate access to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives in their employee health plan or face punitive fines. Because they serve and hire people who are not Catholic, the Little Sisters are not considered a “religious employer.”

In September 2013, they filed a class-action lawsuit, “Little Sisters of the Poor vs. Sebelius”, to persist in their ministry without having to violate their beliefs.

Sheila Snow Hopkins was honored for her 11 years as director for social concerns and respect life at the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2002 to 2013, where she represented the bishops on issues of human life, dignity and social justice before the legislative and executive branches of government, and public and private sector organizations.

She has served as an advisor to the USCCB’s Committee on Marriage and Family Life from 2003 to 2005, on the boards of the Florida Pregnancy Care Network and the Florida Community Loan Fund, and on Florida’s Commission on Marriage and Family Support Initiatives and the Child Abuse Prevention and Permanency Council.

Over 38 years, Hopkins held many positions with the National Council of Catholic Women and its diocesan and state affiliates in Florida. She will soon be installed as the national council’s president-elect.

George Wesolek was honored posthumously for his decades spent advocating for the unborn and other vulnerable populations. From 1985 until his death at age 70 in April, he served as the director of public policy and social concerns in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

His leadership addressed a spectrum of social issues, including: protection of the unborn, Catholic principles of marriage, refuge for undocumented immigrants, affordable housing, health care access, healing from violence in the streets and alleviation of poverty.

He played a key role in building the West Coast Walk for Life into a major pro-life event. In 2012, he spoke in defense of religious liberty at the “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally in San Francisco.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said “the passing of George Wesolek marks the end of a great deal of history in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, not just in terms of length of time but also impact on the mission of the Church.” His wife, Geri Wesolek, and one of their four daughters received the award on his behalf.

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New seminarians begin their spiritual adventure

As summer winds down, three men are preparing for their own version of “back to school.”

These new seminarians will begin their studies for priesthood in the Diocese of Charleston later this month.

The men have spent the past few months working, spending time with family and friends, and preparing themselves mentally and spiritually for this immense challenge. All three said they know it will be a life changing and demanding experience but believe they are ready. They’re supported in their journey by a fraternity of 10 other seminarians.

Michael Cellars, 31, is not a novice to the seminary. He initially started studies in Ohio in 2004 but left after 18 months because he realized the time wasn’t right.

As he prepares to enter St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, Cellars said he’s been praying a lot and attending Mass as often as possible.

“It’s definitely exciting, something I’ve been looking forward to a long time,” he said. “Leaving is also bittersweet because I’m leaving behind family and friends. My brother and his wife are expecting a baby and I won’t be around for the birth, for instance.

“The whole idea of dying to self has become more apparent, and that’s a good thing. Everything is all in one — the anxiety and the excitement!”

Cellars has been spending a lot of time with loved ones, including several trips to Atlanta with his father and brother to catch Braves games.

The Charleston native attends St. Mary of the Annunciation Church and is a son of Karen and Mike Cellars.

Rafael Ghattas, 28, spent the summer working long hours with many double shifts at a hotel job in the Myrtle Beach area. He helped management there train new employees in advance of his departure for seminary. To relax ,
Ghattas hit the gym for workouts and spent plenty of time in prayer and reflection. He will also study at St. Mary’s Seminary.

“I’ve been praying offering my day to God in the morning and asking Him to give me the grace to be ready for my new experience,” Ghattas said.

He wonders how he will handle the responsibility of being back in the classroom, his ability to study and to “change, to be humble and be obedient.”

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to just find more time to spend with God, to have the chance to be alone with Him and to pray more for his grace and for the Holy Spirit to change me,” Ghattas said.

He is the son of Doshra “Tony” and Sahar Ghattas of Myrtle Beach, and a member of St. Andrew Church.

Patrick Judd, 17, recently completed nine weeks in the great outdoors, working as a counselor at Camp Chosatonga, a boys’ wilderness camp near Brevard in western North Carolina.

“We spent the in the mountains and paddling on the rivers,” Judd said. “I love the outdoors so it was definitely something I enjoyed.”

After returning from camp, Judd spent the rest of his time with his family and on activities at St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken, his home parish. He is a son of Derron and Alice Judd of Aiken.

Judd said he doesn’t know quite what to expect when he arrives at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, Texas.

“It’s just a very exciting time for me,” he said. “I’m excited to see what seminary is like, and to be living within a community of guys who are all pursuing Christ.”

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Professor forms Bishop’s Society of Catholic Scholars

College students may have a hard time dealing with challenges to their faith once they hit campus, but try being a Catholic professor.

A new group, The Bishop’s Society of Catholic Scholars, hopes to offer a source of information and support to the state’s higher education teachers who also happen to be Catholic.

Steven Millies, the main organizer, is an associate professor of political science at the University of South Carolina-Aiken. Millies and his family moved to Aiken 10 years ago from Chicago, and joined St. Mary Help of Christians Church.

As far as he can tell, he’s the only Catholic on the faculty at USC-Aiken, and he’s never received any negative feedback or uncomfortable questions about his faith.

“There are people who have horror stories about being Catholic and a college instructor, but I have had a very happy experience,” he said. “However, because my professional work is so close to my personal and spiritual life, it is hard not to have the nourishment of conversation with a spiritual community of likeminded people. It’s clear from what I’ve heard from other Catholic scholars in the state they have a thirst for something like that as well.”

Millies said the main goal of the society is to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines for discussion on how they live out the faith in their daily lives.

“We want to learn how we live the Catholic mission as political scientists, as literature and math professors, as other scholars, and learn how we all can come together in the  Catholic tradition,” Millies said.

He also hopes the group will function as a spiritual community. Meetings ideally will include opportunities for worship, prayer and discussion of faith-related topics.

Another goal is to compile a directory of society members who can offer advice and expertise as needed to the bishop and others around the diocese.

So far about 30 men and women have expressed interest in the society. They include instructors and professors at technical colleges, USC, Clemson, the College of Charleston, Wofford College, Furman University and The Citadel, and span a wide variety of disciplines, from literature and math to philosophy and biology.

The society will hold its first meeting on Aug. 23 at St. Joseph Church in Columbia, beginning with 10 a.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone. A luncheon and business meeting will follow in the parish life center.

If you are a Catholic who teaches in a college or university and are interested in joining the society, contact Millies at (803) 641-3383 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Theology of the body shares a message of love at the beach

PAWLEYS ISLAND—Sophia Murphy is only going into sixth grade, but she already has some good ideas about her future thanks to words of wisdom from St. John Paul II.

“He talks about the relationship of marriage being like Christ’s relationship with the Church,” she said on a recent Saturday. “That’s taught me that when I get older and start dating, I need to set my expectations high and I deserve to be respected.”

That was just one of the important life lessons youth from Precious Blood of Christ Church took away from “Theology of the Body at the Beach,” a retreat held Aug. 9 at the Litchfield Inn. Against a backdrop of wind and waves, young people learned about love, respect, and relationships.

Talks by Father Richard O’Donnell of Vermont and Colin MacIver of Louisiana encouraged the students to use God’s special gifts of love and grace to overcome bullying, stress and temptation.

In small groups, they offered each other ideas on how to handle anger and frustration — “Walk away and don’t lash out,” one girl suggested.

How do you keep a close relationship with God during the busy school year? One boy said he always makes sure to have a quiet moment of prayer before going to sleep. Others described keeping prayer journals, reading a verse from the Bible just before bed, and repeating Hail Mary’s over and over again for comfort on sleepless nights.

The group attended Mass together, shared silent prayer time on the beach and ended the day with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Blake Joseph, 11, was struck by discussions of God’s abundant love.

“A lot of kids have a hard time being loved and showing love to others,” he said. “I’ve learned that God would want me to show love to them like He shares His love with us.”

Ella Grace Bodie, 14, learned how prayer can keep her from getting sidetracked from her responsibilities.

“I also think I need to show my faith more, show who I am as a Catholic Christian,” she said. “I really need to be a leader toward my siblings and other students.”

A couple who had just been married on the beach walked by during a workshop held outdoors. Father O’Donnell told the group they were a perfect symbol of the day’s message.

“Right now those two people think the best days of their lives are ahead of them, and I want you to know the best days of your life are ahead of you,” he said. “You could succumb to peer pressure or other’s thoughts of what your life should be, but my hope is you truly believe that God wants something more for you.”

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