By NANCY CZABALA
CHARLESTON — As parishioners filled the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Sunday, Nov. 1, for the 11 a.m. Mass, they were not just coming to worship, but to extend a prayer of gratitude for Bishop David B. Thompson at a Mass of Thanksgiving.
After traveling around the diocese and celebrating Mass in each deanery, the Bishop saved the See City for his final stop. In his opening remarks, the Bishop said, “Presence is my most important gift to you.”
The Bishop has put tens of thousands of miles on his car, visiting every Catholic community in the state. Msgr. E. Christopher Lathem, pastor of St. John the Beloved in Summerville, said with a smile in a later statement during Mass, “You’ve even visited communities where there’s rumor of a Catholic.”
Bishop Thompson continued his Hail and Farewell, Ave atque Vale: “Ave — I thank you for all that you are and have been for me as your chief shepherd; I thank you for allowing me to lead you into the next millennium through your participation in the Synod of Charleston and now with its implementation. It has been a great honor and a precious privilege to be the Bishop of Charleston.
“Vale — I bid you fond farewell with the promise that I shall hang onto you for dear life all the rest of my life; and I beg you to hang onto me especially by that one Hail Mary each day, which I asked you to say for me from my first days among you.”
He recognized concelebrating priests, Msgr. James Carter, vicar general and pastor of Christ Our King in Mt. Pleasant; Msgr. Lathem; and Father Chester Moczydlowski, pastor of The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist; Deacon Samuel Hanvey; the liturgical program at the Cathedral run by Bill Schlitt, director of music, and Maida Libkin, associate director of music ministry, and staff and parishioners of the Cathedral.
The Cathedral family was joined in prayer by visitors from other coastal parishes during the celebratory Mass.
On the occasion of All Saints Day, Bishop Thompson, in his homily, said, “We are all cut from the same cloth and we are all destined by God to be one of his saints in heaven. All Saints Day takes that truth and poses this question: ‘Shall I be a dust cloth or an altar cloth?’
“The big difference between a saint and a sinner is the saint never quits.”
Bishop Thompson ended his homily simply: “Goodbye, now. God love you. I certainly do.”
Before the final blessing and dismissal, Msgr. Lathem spoke, referring to the Nicene Creed — one holy, an apostolic church — and said it is the job of the Bishop to bring this to the people.
“With the Synod, you’ve gathered us as one. Thank you for helping us to be holy and find oneness,” said Msgr. Lathem. “I hope that you might hear in our applause gratitude to our faithful servant.”
Then, the congregation stood and applauded the Bishop, who looked upon his charges with loving eyes and a humble heart.
Father Moczydlowski recognized visitors who shared in the celebration, and everyone was invited to a reception afterward, hosted by the Coastal Deanery chapter of the South Carolina Council of Catholic Women.
Msgr. Carter spoke, offering words of praise to the Bishop: “A saint is one who reflects holiness, who is holy — this can be said about Bishop Thompson.” Always generous and forgiving, “you will leave our diocese not the same place as it was!”