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Scholars society hopes to fill a void on campus

COLUMBIA—A group of professors joined in worship and laid the groundwork for the new Bishop’s Society of Catholic Scholars on Aug. 23.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit for about 40 men and women at St. Joseph Church in Columbia, and then joined them in the parish life center for the society’s first meeting.

Steven Millies, an associate professor of political science at the University of South Carolina-Aiken, is the main organizer.

He told the group their faith offered them a rare chance to share the Catholic imagination with their students and the rest of the secular world.

“Our view of the world, the cosmos — everything — is fired by the incarnational fact of our faith,” he said. “Incarnation is not only the Word made flesh, but also the mystery of the Eucharist that comes alive in the sacrifice of the Mass every day at our local parish church … we come together to see sanctity through our work as Catholic scholars in and through our academic vocation.”

Millies said scholars enjoy a life devoted to both faith and reason, but acknowledged it can be a lonely pursuit. He hopes the new group will be an important source of fellowship and friendship.

“Academic life also is the coming together of scholars to discuss, collaborate, critique and to discover the truth through discourse,” he said. “In a new way, that is what we shall do here. Let us, together, take up that struggle
in a new way and seek after the light of Christ … let us guide each other, our students and the rest of the human community toward the hope and the joy of knowledge and truth.”

Many who attended said having a Catholic scholars’ organization had never occurred to them before, but they think it has a lot of potential.

“I enjoyed meeting my colleagues and I’m looking forward to getting to know more of them,” said William DeMars, a professor and chairman of the Department of Government at Wofford College in Spartanburg. “There are a lot of things that come up in higher education that fall under the broad umbrella of faith and reason, and this will offer a good chance to discuss them.”

“It was a great pleasure to see so many scholars from so many different backgrounds come together in a spirit of service and fellowship to benefit the Church and higher education,” said Miller Shealy, a professor at the Charleston School of Law. “Hopefully one of the things we will do is help to fill a void by being a Catholic presence on the campuses.”

Members agreed they would like to meet at least twice a year to discuss faith-related topics, and helped Millies compile a list of possible future officers. Other goals for the society include compiling a directory of members who could offer their expertise to the bishop or others as needed.

Catholics who teach in a college or university can still join the society by contacting 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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Diaconate classes impart bountiful knowledge this side of heaven

September 20 will mark a return to school for Fred Knowles of Gaffney, plus 74 other men preparing for a life of ministry and service to the Church as permanent deacons.

He is one of 37 men slated to be ordained in 2016, along with another 14 in the class of 2017. In addition, 24 men will begin classes this year, with a projected ordination date of 2019, said Deacon Andre Guillet, director of diaconate formation.

Like many of his classmates, Knowles decided to start formation for the diaconate after many years of study and prayer. He’s a member of Sacred Heart Church in Gaffney who became a Catholic about 10 years ago.

“I was raised Baptist, then studied for the Methodist ministry before that led me back home to Rome,” Knowles said. “When I became Catholic, I thought that would be the end of my spiritual journey, but God finds His way and He led me to the diaconate program.”

Men who seek the ministry must complete four years of study. This year’s program includes Saturday morning sessions on pastoral and spiritual formation, with topics such as the history of the Diocese of Charleston, praying the rosary, multi-ethnic ministries and the Apostolate of the Sea.

Afternoon classes are given through St. Leo University and include Church history, Scripture, philosophy, ethics, the sacraments and the teachings of St. Paul and St. Augustine.

The men will meet one weekend a month at St. Peter Church in Columbia. Classes were held in Charleston, but returned to the Midlands to provide a more central location for people from all over the state, Deacon Guillet said.

Knowles, who is in the class of 2016, works in the theater department at Limestone College in Gaffney, and sometimes finds it difficult balancing a full time job and family time with all the reading and study. The work is all worth it, he said, because of the new things he has learned about his faith. He especially enjoys Christian history.

“Finding the time to meet the goals is pretty challenging, but the classes are really interesting,” he said. “You get to look at a multiplicity of different subjects in a variety of disciplines. It helps broaden your mind and it all points to God. I really feel like we’re moving closer and closer to enlightenment. Ultimately we can’t know everything this side of heaven, but these classes are helping us strive to know as much as we possibly can by the time we’re ordained.”

Also on Sept. 20, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone will celebrate Mass and conduct the Rite of Admission to the ministry of acolyte for the class of 2016, and the ministry of lector for
the class of 2017.

To learn more about the permanent diaconate, visit

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Catholic schools focus on strategic plan

As the 2014-2015 school year rolls to a start, the big news for education in the Diocese of Charleston is the upcoming comprehensive strategic plan to tackle school improvement.

Sandra Leatherwood, director of Catholic education, said a task force has been formed and will hold its first meeting on Sept. 30 at Christ Our King-Stella Maris School. It consists of 15 school, church and community leaders, with John Palms, former president of the University of South Carolina, as chairman.

In the first phase, the task force will spend about a year gathering information and developing a plan to revitalize and strengthen schools. They will meet with principals and pastors on Oct. 15 in Myrtle Beach to receive their input, and then hold input sessions in all the deaneries, Leatherwood said.

Once the comprehensive plan is developed, a second board will be created to devise an implementation process.

It’s a wrap
In other school news, several projects wrapped up this past year, including the opening of John Paul II Catholic School in Ridgeland, which currently serves seventh through 10th grades. They will advance a grade each year until they are a full high school.

Up and coming
Across the state in the Pee Dee, another high school continues to develop.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton High School in Myrtle Beach is close to reaching its fundraising goal of $3.5 million and is still working toward the challenge goal of $5 million. Leatherwood said a projected opening date is set for the 2016-2017 school year. Visit the school’s webpage at

New principals
Schools in the diocese held steady this year, with only two leadership changes.
JOHN PAUL II—As previously reported, Sister Pamela Smith, SSCM, agreed to take on the role as principal of John Paul II in Ridgeland. She took the reins in December 2013 and will continue to offer spiritual and academic leadership into the future. Sister Pam also serves as secretary education and faith formation for the diocese, overseeing all of the education departments.
ST. JOSEPH SCHOOL—Donavan Yarnall was chosen for the top spot at St. Joseph in Columbia. He served as an elementary principal for seven years, most recently at Saint Simon the Apostle in Indianapolis, Ind., which received the state’s highest recognition as a four-star school. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree, plus Master of Education and Specialist in Education degrees.

Cardinal Newman began site work on its new campus on Alpine Road in June, which includes grading and leveling the land, putting in roads and driveways and preparing athletic fields. Construction is expected to begin once site work is completed.

School choice
The St. Thomas Aquinas Scholarship Fund is a huge success, collecting $1.2 million as of June 30, said Michael Acquilano, director of the South Carolina Catholic Conference. So far, the organization has disbursed and allocated for future years over $1.15 million, with more scholarships still to come. The fund was created to serve children designated by the state’s school choice legislation, which at this time serves only special needs children. Acquilano said they are pushing to include low-income children in the school choice legislation.

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Backpack buddies fills satchels and stomachs

HILTON HEAD ISLAND—Many people look at a backpack as just another school supply, but for some kids it means not going hungry.

Each Friday during the school year, more than 200 local public school children receive backpacks full of simple, nutritional food to get them through the weekend, thanks to an ecumenical project known as Backpack Buddies.

Weekend backpack programs were started about 15 years ago by the national outreach Feeding America, after teachers, school nurses and social workers reported children coming in tired and hungry on Monday mornings after going without enough food over the weekend.

St. Francis by the Sea Church is one of three packing sites for Backpack Buddies on the island. Dozens of volunteers from the parish and community meet there on Thursdays to fill bags with donated food provided by Sysco, an area distributor.

Debbi Dunlap, a member of St. Francis, organizes the effort. She said each backpack contains nine items that don’t need refrigeration. Regular offerings include canned pastas such as spaghetti and meatballs or ravioli, puddings, cold cereal, granola bars, fruit cups and fresh fruit. After the bags are filled, drivers pick them up and deliver them to the Hilton Head Island School for Creative Arts, where teachers distribute them to children on Fridays.

Volunteers don’t know the names of the children and families they serve, but on average they pack about 65 bags per week. They will pack their first round of backpacks for this school year on Sept. 25.

Dunlap said most of the kids who receive the staples eat free or reduced lunch during the week and are referred to the program by social workers. Parents must give permission for their children to take the food.

“I used to be a teacher in Kentucky, in an area with a lot of poor kids, so I know how important it is to help children in need — they’re our greatest
resource,” Dunlap said. “It’s a joy working on this with the volunteers.”

Sheila Gallahue started the ministry at St. Francis in 2010 along with fellow parishioner Connie Shelford. They attended a public meeting about the chronic but often hidden hunger problem on the island, and then asked Father Michael Oenbrink, pastor, if they could use space at the church for a backpack program.

“A lot of people think of Hilton Head and don’t think there is anyone homeless here, anyone poor or any children going hungry — it’s a shocker when they find out,” Gallahue said.

Recent surveys have shown that more than 52 percent of elementary school children on the island are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Gallahue and Shelford raise funds for the program by applying for grants and spreading the word about Backpack Buddies to as many people as possible.

It costs only about $170 to provide food for a child every weekend during the school year, she said.

“It’s so nice to be able to give back and to know someone is benefiting by the bit of work we do,” Gallahue said. “No one wants to think of children being hungry, but they’re all around us and we often don’t even see it. This is a wonderful program because it does an awful lot of good for a lot of people.



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