Tuesday, November 25, 2014
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Group is organizing to fight for freedom of religion

MYRTLE BEACH—Carol Jean Walters is on a mission to rally people around the importance of fighting for religious freedom.

The former New Yorker has started local chapters of Catholics for Freedom of Religion. She first became involved in the grassroots group through her former parish, St. James in Setauket in the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island.

The organization was founded by Barbara Samuells and Eileen Wolfe, both of Long Island, in response to concerns over the HHS mandate, which required employers to provide contraceptive coverage to workers under the Affordable Care Act.

In New York, Catholics for Freedom of Religion quickly became involved in spreading information about religious liberty at the parish level. They have also helped some who felt their own religious freedom was being threatened, including a high school student from Long Island who tried to form an interfaith discussion group at his school and was initially turned down.

Samuels said the organizers dream of establishing branches in every diocese around the nation, and she felt called to spread the word in South Carolina. After she and her husband moved to Myrtle Beach in late 2013, she received permission from Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone and her pastor, Father James LeBlanc.

Since March, Catholics for Religious Freedom has met monthly at St. Andrew Church and hosted a variety of speakers, including a Florida attorney who specializes in the constitution. The group has about 40 members who attend regularly, ranging from families with children to senior citizens.

They participated in the Fortnight for Freedom over the summer, and sponsored an essay and art contest for middle and high school students that they hope to expand in 2015.

“It’s been quite a journey, but very exciting and rewarding,” Walters said.

“We’ve hit a few bumps in the road, but the important thing is letting people know this is important. It’s about our country and our Church, and how important it is to support the God-given freedom of religion,” she said.

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Catholic radio speaks to those who want to hear Good News

Catholic radio helps Marsha Beach of Mount Pleasant turn rush hour into a spiritual experience.

“Just hearing the programs they offer while I’m sitting there in traffic helps me learn more about my faith and, I think, become a better Catholic,” said Beach, who attends the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston.

She is one of thousands of listeners who benefit from daily programming offered by Catholic Radio in South Carolina, based in Greer. Founded in 2002, the station originally only broadcast programming from the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

Local material now plays a more prominent role. Offerings include “More Christianity,” a syndicated program by Father Dwight Longenecker of Greenville, live coverage of important events, broadcasts of Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone’s annual messages for Advent and Lent, and occasional noon broadcasts of Sunday Mass from parishes around the state. They will broadcast from Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island later this month.

The annual Radiothon on Oct. 16-17 is a fundraiser and chance to raise awareness of what they offer, said Gary Towery, president of Catholic Radio South Carolina.

Listeners can also call (864) 877- 8458 during those two days to offer feedback about the programming.

Tune into Catholic radio on WCKI 1300 AM (Upstate), WQIZ 810 AM (St. George in the Lowcountry), or WLTQ 730 AM (Coast, broadcast out of Charleston). Towery said they also are exploring ways to add a station in the Midlands.

Streamed broadcasts are available at www.catholicradioinsc.com, or download the Tunein App to listen on smartphones or tablets.

Michael Brennan, executive vice president, said Catholic radio helped him in his journey back to the Church. He listened while traveling between St. Louis and Spartanburg in 2003, and got involved with the project when he moved back to the Upstate permanently in 2008.

“Our purpose here is two-fold,” he said. “First thing, we are a tool of the Holy Spirit to bring people closer to their faith and let them experience it more, and our other goal is to serve the Diocese [of Charleston] and its apostolates, to serve as a medium of information that people can really use.”

Brennan said they try to run as many announcements as possible for parishes and organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, and do special programs in advance of events including the annual March for Life in Columbia and the recent Marian Eucharistic Conference in Greenville.

Catholic Radio also tries to build community ties with events, such as the Catholic business breakfasts they host in Greenville and Charleston.

“We’re trying to bring all the parishes and Catholics around the state a little closer,” Brennan said.

They don’t maintain a count of listeners, but Towery said they know they’re making an impact from phone calls and emails they receive. He said one man recently called to say he had fallen away from the Church, but went to confession and sought counseling to heal his marriage after listening to one of the programs while driving through the Charleston area.

Laurie Rappl of Simpsonville started listening about two years ago and especially likes programs that talk about faith and current events.

“I don’t have the patience to read through a lot of books and don’t have the time to go to some of the educational activities at my church, but I’ve always got Catholic radio,” she said. “Even if I turn it on just for 10 or 15 minutes, I feel like I learn something.”

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Families bond at Scout Camporee

SALUDA—Andrew Stewart called upon his faith to help him through a walk across a 30-foot high ropes course at the annual Catholic Camporee.

“I talked to God when I was out there,” the 12-year-old said with a laugh.

Stewart and his group of Columbian Squires from Prince of Peace Church in Taylors joined more than 500 other kids and adults Oct. 3-5 for a weekend of activities, worship and family fun. The event is open to Boy and Girl Scouts, Venture Scouts, American Heritage Girls and the Squires.

There was a little something for everyone, from an old-fashioned pie-eating contest to canoeing, archery, and racing Pinewood derby cars made out of Legos. A little bit of frontier flavor came through at rifle shooting and tomahawk throwing sessions available for the older kids.

The weekend was a chance for the Adkins family from Greenville to have a good time together. Joey Adkins, 9, is a Webelo Scout with Troop 420 from St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville, and his sibling Emily, 6, was allowed to join in the fun, such as tackling a climbing wall.

“I love how family-oriented this whole thing is,” said Debbie Adkins. “There are so many things that all the siblings can do together, and it’s been nice to see all the groups of kids are meshing together and getting along.”

Mrs. Adkins also liked the religious activities, including a living Stations of the Cross that helped children Emily’s age learn about each station using props and a kid-friendly script.

Alyssa Koren, 8, a Brownie from Troop 703 at St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach, bore a bit of a resemblance to Katniss Everdeen, the archery expert from “The Hunger Games,” as her dad Kevin Koren helped her with the finer points of handling a bow and arrow. It was the third time Mr. Koren and his wife Theresa had attended a camporee with their daughter.

“It’s a great way for us to spend some time as a family together outdoors,” Mr. Koren said. “It gives the girls a chance to learn about the different things they can do, and helps them build more confidence.”

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass outdoors on Oct. 4 and recognized youth who have earned religious emblems.

Nineteen Boy Scouts earned the Ad Altare Dei emblem, and five received their Pope Pius XII emblems. Five Girl Scouts earned the Family of God emblem, six received I Live My Faith and two earned Mary, the First Disciple. Sixteen Cub Scouts received the Light of Christ emblem and 12 received the Parvuli Dei.

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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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