Saturday, November 22, 2014
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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.


S.C. Supreme Court strikes down same-sex marriage licenses

COLUMBIA—Marriage licenses will not be issued to same-sex couples in South Carolina until a federal court weighs in on the issue, according to a decision handed down by the S.C. Supreme Court shortly after noon on Thursday.

The decision came after S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson petitioned the Supreme Court to halt marriage licenses in the state after a Charleston County judge, Probate Judge Irving Condon, said on Wednesday that he would begin accepting applications for the licenses. More than 20 couples had applied for them before today’s decision.

The state Supreme Court’s decision means no licenses will be issued in South Carolina until a federal judge rules on whether or not the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is legal. There is no indication of how long that ruling might take.

Wilson has declared his intention to continue fighting for traditional marriage in the state, as has Governor Nikki Haley.

In response to the license that was granted in Charleston County on Wednesday, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone released a statement affirming the Church’s stand on both the dignity of individuals and the sacrament of marriage.

“Our Catholic faith upholds the dignity of every human person, including persons with same-sex attraction, whom we accept and love as our brothers and sisters,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “At the same time, the Church sustains that marriage is a sacrament instituted by God, not by man or by institution, and can only be between one man and one woman. It unites a husband and wife together for life and bonds them to any children that come from the union.”

Michael Acquilano, director of the South Carolina Catholic Conference, said the conference “believes in the sanctity of marriage and the importance of preserving the marital relationship for the common good of society and especially our children.”

Acquilano urged Catholics in the state to pray about the issue and “reach out to the attorney general’s office and thank them for protecting marriage in South Carolina.”



S.C. court accepts same-sex marriage application

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CHARLESTON—A South Carolina court accepted an application for a same-sex marriage license today in spite of the state's constitutional ban against the practice and the attorney general's pledge to defend it.

In a statement, Charleston County Probate Judge Irving Condon said: “As a result of the actions of the United States Supreme Court on October 6, 2014, the Charleston County Probate Court is required to accept and issue marriage licenses for same sex couples. Applications will be accepted beginning today, Oct. 8, 2104, and the Charleston County Probate Court will issue the marriage license after the mandatory 24-hour waiting period unless stayed by the South Carolina Supreme Court or other appropriate court.”

Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley were the first couple to apply for the license here after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned bans on same-sex marriage in five states.

On Oct. 6 the Supreme Court declined to consider appeals of seven lower court rulings that such prohibitions are unconstitutional. Another half-dozen states in the same appellate court jurisdictions also are likely to begin allowing such marriages. But the high court's refusal to hear the cases does not translate to a nationwide mandate for all states to follow them, according to Catholic News Service.

The action effectively allows same-sex marriages to begin in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin as soon as lower courts lift temporary stays that were imposed while appeals went to the Supreme Court.

Six other states within the same three federal circuit court jurisdictions would fall under those appellate rulings and could begin allowing such marriages, bringing to 30 the number of states that allow same-sex couples to wed.

Hours after the Supreme Court decision, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson released a statement saying he will keep fighting to uphold the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage.

"Until the courts rule on the matter, South Carolina will seek to uphold our state constitution," Wilson stated.

While Catholic teaching opposes discrimination against homosexuals, the Church holds that homosexual acts are always immoral and that marriage can only be a union between one man and one woman.

"Our Catholic faith upholds the dignity of every human person, including persons with same-sex attraction, whom we accept and love as our brothers and sisters,” Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston said in a statement released Oct. 8.

“At the same time, the Church sustains that marriage is a sacrament instituted by God, not by man or by institution, and can only be between one man and one woman.  It unites a husband and wife together for life and bonds them to any children that come from the union," he continued.

Within hours of the Supreme Court orders being released, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the temporary stay on its rulings, which overturned same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma. The other cases that now revert to lower court rulings are from the 4th Circuit and the 7th Circuit. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said county clerks could begin issuing licenses that same day.

In 89 pages of orders issued on the first day of the Supreme Court's 2014 term, it rejected appeals in seven cases in which federal courts had said laws prohibiting same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. The cases included a mixture of state constitutional amendments and legislation that banned same-sex marriages, plus appeals by couples who were married in other states and sought recognition of their unions by the states where they live. The court issued the orders without comment.

The justices' decision to not take up any of the cases came as a surprise to legal observers. The high court typically does not take up cases with nationwide implications unless there are conflicting lower court rulings. But in each of the seven marriage cases, both the winning and losing sides had asked the court to review the lower court decisions, to help clarify the overall situation.

When the Supreme Court justices consider whether to take a case, it takes four votes to put an appeal on the docket. Four justices dissented from the 2013 rulings that overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman. After the U.S. v. Windsor ruling, attorneys general in some states declined to defend their bans on same-sex marriage, while others vigorously fought to keep them intact.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th, 6th, 9th and 11th circuits all have same-sex marriage cases on the docket. The Supreme Court's decision to not review the cases gives the appellate courts little new information on which to base their rulings, so it's possible that a split between circuits could still develop.

While supporters of laws allowing same-sex marriage hailed the result of the court's decision to bypass the cases, some opponents called on Congress to act.

A statement from the chairmen of two committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said they were disappointed that the high court didn't take up the cases.

"All of these state laws were democratically enacted, including most by the direct vote of large majorities within just the last decade," said the Oct. 6 statement from Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. "Millions of Americans had looked to the court with hope that these unjust judicial decisions might be reversed."

"The Supreme Court's action fails to resolve immediately the injustice of marriage redefinition, and therefore should be of grave concern to our entire nation," the bishops said.

In a teleconference Oct. 6, Ted Olsen, former U.S. solicitor general and now attorney for the Virginia couple who sued for the right to marry, said the court's decision not to review any of the cases means a faster track to more states permitting same-sex marriages. Had the court accepted any of the seven cases, it would have meant a final ruling from the Supreme Court would likely come in the spring.

On the same teleconference, attorney Jon Davidson of Lambda Legal said the court's decision to pass this round might mean that although four justices would have voted to accept one or more cases, they didn't want to risk the uncertainty about whether there might be a fifth vote to overturn or uphold the lower courts. That outcome, said Davidson, might have meant same-sex marriage would become legal nationwide in one ruling.

The Family Research Council, which also opposes same-sex marriage, said in a statement from president Tony Perkins that the court's action is "in part, an indication that those on the court who desire to redefine natural marriage recognize the country will not accept a Roe v. Wade type decision on marriage."

Perkins called on Congress to advance a bill called the State Marriage Defense Act, "which is consistent with last year's Windsor ruling and ensures that the federal government in its definition of marriage respects the duly enacted marriage laws of the states."

Compiled from Catholic News Service and Associated Press reports

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