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Save-A-Smile helps people take a bite out of life

GREENVILLE—For most people, breaking into a smile when they’re happy is second nature.

For Pepper Humphrey, it is a precious gift. The Taylors resident said she avoided smiling for years because she had bad teeth.

“I wouldn’t talk that openly, I would sit there covering my mouth,” she recalled.

Then, in 2011, her life changed dramatically because of a new set of dentures she received through Save-A-Smile, a program run by Catholic Charities that provides dental work for low-income adults.

“It was an answer to a prayer,” Humphrey said. “I was out of work, and getting dentures allowed me to be able to get another job. I was able to communicate with people professionally and socially. Now I don’t mind smiling and I don’t mind talking with people.”

Humphrey, who works part-time as a bookkeeper, is one of more than 700 people around the Upstate who have received new dentures through Save-A-Smile in the past three years.

The program recently received a welcome boost from a $60,000 grant awarded to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston by Greenville Women Giving, a philanthropic group centered on the idea that women can make a real difference in the community.

That money will help about 150 people who desperately need dental work but otherwise couldn’t afford it, said Karl Rogozenski, senior care and development coordinator for Catholic Charities in the Piedmont Deanery.

Rogozenski works closely with Save-A-Smile and sees the results on a daily basis. Many clients are able to land jobs because their appearance and self-esteem improves, and they can be more successful at job interviews, he said.

A full set of teeth also has health benefits, because people are able to eat more foods without difficulty. Rogozenski recalls one woman who was overjoyed because she was finally able to eat an ear of corn again.

“We take pictures before and after, and it’s an incredible transformation,” he said. “We have a bulletin board full of smiles on the wall. You can see the real change in people.”

Candidates for new dentures first attend an oral hygiene workshop given by the dental college at Greenville Technical College, and then complete an interview and application. Once they are approved, recipients receive a voucher to have their dentures made at a local clinic.

Rogozenski said many people who benefit from the program have been struggling with poor dental health for years. Save-A-Smile has served people in their 30s on up.

“It is an unending need because Medicare and other programs don’t help with things like dentures,” he said. “We’ve helped hundreds but we also have close to 400 people on the waiting list.”

Humphrey spent three years on the list before getting her dentures and said the day she received them was an answer to a prayer.

“They have given me confidence and a sense of self-worth,” she said. “I want to show people here I am. See how God has worked in my life!”

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Bishop's Calendar for June 2014

The following is Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone’s calendar for June:
June 1—Noon, Confirmation, Spanish, Sacred Heart Church, Gaffney, Bishop Emeritus Victor Galeone of St. Augustine; 1 p.m., Confirmation, St. Paul the Apostle Church, Spartanburg
June 2—7 p.m., Confirmation, Jesus Our Risen Savior Church, Spartanburg
June 4—7 p.m., Confirmation, Blessed Trinity Church, Greer, with San Sebastian Mission, Greenville
June 5—7 p.m., Confirmation, St. Anthony of Padua Church, Greenville
June 6—10 a.m., Graduation, Bishop England High School, McAlister Field House
June 7—9 a.m., South Carolina Columbiettes Convention Mass, St. Andrew Church, Myrtle Beach; 5 p.m., Confirmation, Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, North Myrtle Beach
June 8—11:15 a.m., Mass of the Neophytes, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston; 1 p.m., Confirmation, Spanish, Holy Spirit Church, Johns Island, Bishop Emeritus Galeone
June 12—12:30 p.m., Building and Renovation Committee, Charleston; 7 p.m., Confirmation, Church of the Nativity, Charleston
June 16—7 p.m., Confirmation, St. Andrew Church, Clemson
June 17—Noon, Finance Council meeting, Charleston; 7 p.m., Confirmation, Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Greenville
June 18—10 a.m., LARCUM meeting, Holy Trinity Church, Orangeburg; 7 p.m., Confirmation, St. Joseph Church, Anderson, with St. Mary of the Angels Church, Anderson
June 19—5:15 p.m., Catholic Media Convention Mass, St. Peter Church, Charlotte, N.C.
June 21—10 a.m., Mass and eucharistic procession at St. Mary Church, Greenville; 5 p.m., Confirmation, Holy Trinity Church, Orangeburg
June 22—11 a.m., Mass, Corpus Christi Church, Lexington; 3 p.m., Confirmation, St. Mark Church, Newberry, including St. Boniface Church, Joanna and Holy Spirit Mission, Laurens
June 23-25—Provincial Assembly of Bishops, Raleigh, N.C.


Cardinal Newman senior encourages youth to make a difference

COLUMBIA—Alex Six wants people his age to know their ideas can change the world.

It’s something the 18-year-old said he has learned through two years of work with the Diocese of Charleston’s Youth Evangelization Team, also known as the E-team.

On April 26, he shared his perspectives at the TEDxYouth conference in Columbia, an event founded in 2012 with the goal of bringing together some of the best young minds in the state. At TEDx, speakers focus on inspiring creativity, developing ideas, and becoming inquisitive and critical thinkers. The conferences are regional events that grew out of global TED brainstorming sessions that originated in California.

Six was invited to audition for this year's conference. The organizers signed him up after hearing his 10-minuted presentation.

“I focused on how everyone can impact the world by sharing their ideas and their stories,” Six said. “I’m a shy person by nature and I had to learn that my ideas can have an impact, and I wanted other young people to know they should not be afraid to share parts of themselves and their lives in order to better others.”

“A lot of times youth will say ‘Well, I can’t do anything. I can’t vote or run a business.’ But you can change the world yourself with many little things,” he said.

Youth often find it more comfortable to communicate via social media and the internet, and he discussed ways those platforms can have a positive impact.

While a text message or Facebook post will never completely replace face-to-face conversation, he said any form of communication can be used to uplift people.

Six, a senior at Cardinal Newman School, is already exploring ways to spread God’s message through the written word and online. Along with friend Olav Tollefsen, in January he started Unleavened Ministries (, a website and blog that features his spiritual musings and other guest writers.

He was inspired to start the ministry because of the huge impact faith has had on his life. Working with the E-team helped him learn the true importance of prayer and complete trust in God.

The son of Steve and Julie Six of Columbia, his family belongs to St. John Neumann Church. In the fall, he’ll head to Clemson University to study electrical engineering, and hopes to be involved in campus ministry there.

“I want people to know that God is good, and when things happen we can look in our lives and know that God had a role on it,” Six said. “He tells us, ‘Hold on, wait and you’ll see what I have in store for you!’ My work has taught me to trust Him a lot more. He makes things work out.”

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Migrating south, priest finds warm people and climes

BEAUFORT—Father Paul MacNeil is one of those lucky individuals who has two countries to call home, and even luckier to be well-loved in both.

The administrator of St. Peter Church recently celebrated his 25th jubilee here, in his home away from home. In June, he will return to his native Diocese of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, for another celebration.

Msgr. Ronald Cellini, pastor of St. Gregory the Great in Bluffton, has known Father MacNeil for eight years and attended the event at St. Peter, along with about 500 other well-wishers, he said.

“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like him,” Msgr. Cellini said. “Father MacNeil is one of the kindest, most people-centered priests I know. He’s motivated by the needs of the people.”

Father MacNeil said he originally considered applying to a diocese in Florida, but was convinced by Msgr. Cellini that the climate and culture were both better in South Carolina.

So he received permission from his bishop to spend a couple of years here.

“A couple of years turned into incardination,” Father MacNeil said with a laugh. He adds that receiving the letter from Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone asking him to be a priest of the diocese is one of the highlights of his vocation.

When he first arrived in South Carolina, he was appointed parochial vicar at St. Gregory the Great, Father MacNeil said, and has served as administrator at St. Peter for the past three years.

The southern Lowcountry that he calls home now is a bit warmer than his native Nova Scotia, where summer temperatures reach the low 80s, and winter can drop to 16 degrees.

He recalls his childhood warmly, noting that he came from a close-knit Catholic family where he was the youngest of six children. They attended public school but were active in the church.

“My faith was always strong in my life, but particularly in junior and senior high with youth group, when I had an amazing growth in faith,” he said.

It wasn’t until his second year of college, when he was praying one night, that he first thought about the priesthood, he said. At that point, a warm feeling of peace flowed over him.

“It was like God giving me a big hug,” Father MacNeil explained.

From there he spent a lot of time in discernment, speaking with priests and his former youth leader, Sister of Charity Catherine Steele.

He was 20 when he was first accepted by his bishop and entered seminary at St. Augustine’s in Toronto, Ontario.

“Walking through the big bronze doors of the seminary there was a homecoming,” Father MacNeil said. “It was an affirmation from God I was in the right place.”

The priest spent 18 years serving in Canada, the bulk of it as a chaplain at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish.

It was during a sabbatical at the North American College that he first became friends with many American priests, leading to visits here and a call to serve. He said the local priests and people are friendly, polite and faith-filled.

Some of his best memories include his first Easter service at an outdoor Mass at Sun City in Bluffton, and meeting the wonderful people of St. Peter.

Father MacNeil said he goes home to see his family about twice a year, but feels just as much at home in the Lowcountry, with his cat Francis, and his love of the outdoors. The priest said he spends a lot of time cycling, swimming and walking, plus quiet time in prayer.

“I feel God has called me to be here,” he said. “I’m so content being a parish priest and contributing to the growth of the Church."

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