Brooks Denman, a senior at Beaufort High, looks back on his sophomore year as a time of turmoil. He had withdrawn from his family and the Church, and felt alone and despondent. He said he felt a huge void in his life and tried to fill it with vices.
It’s a story familiar to so many people.
Then, in the summer before his junior year, Brooks’ grandparents encouraged him to attend a Catholic Leadership Institute for youth and his response was “OK, why not?”
It turned out to be a decision he feels was guided by the voice of God; one that turned his life around. Brooks said the event, sponsored by the Diocese of Charleston’s Office of Youth Ministry, was the first time he felt true joy and opened himself to the presence of God.
“After that, I made a point to live my life for Him and do everything for Him and that has become one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Brooks said.
His grandparents, William and Sally Galster, said every time Brooks attended youth group and other church events he became a better and better person.
Now, Brooks is an active member of St. Peter Church and the many programs of the youth office, including serving on the Evangelization Team, and his sister Bri is also engaged in parish life.
“No matter where you come from or what you’ve done … God will always accept you with open arms and make you the person He always wanted you to be,” Brooks said.
Carrie Mummert, director of Stewardship and Mission Advancement, said she hears personal stories like this every day; stories that underscore the many ways that Church ministries impact lives.
From every parish and every diocesan department and program, people share stories of how their lives were impacted and changed for the better.
Michaela Schenkelberg recalls moving here in 2013 to pursue her doctorate at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Although she attended Mass, she didn’t know anyone and felt very alone and was always anxious and uncomfortable. People involved with campus ministry and young adult groups kept inviting her to attend, but her anxiety was an obstacle.
One day, Father Marcin Zahuta, pastor at St. Thomas More at USC, gave her the book “Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture.” When she read it, she broke down in tears, and said that was her tipping point for change.
Despite her discomfort, she accepted the invites to attend young adult groups and has been on a journey ever since to see herself as God does.
“I have a lot of peace now trusting that God has this plan for me,” she said, adding that she wants to help others see the skills and talents in themselves, too.
Other departments and programs help people when they are at their lowest. Kathy Schmugge, director of the Family Life Office, said people often come to them seeking marriage counseling, or help recovering and repenting from post-abortive despair. And the Church is always there.
Mummert said it’s a big job — one that takes a lot of resources. She is proud of the work that the Bishop’s Annual Appeal allows the diocese and the parishes to do, but at the same time, she said she knows the diocese can do so much more if they can only increase participation.
Last year, the BAA raised $4.1 million from only 24% of the households, she said. “Can you imagine if we could hit 50% participation how much we could raise for our ministries and programs and what a huge impact these funds would make?”
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone notes that donating to the BAA is a concrete way to participate in the Year of Mercy. “The Church’s call for corporal and spiritual works of mercy is the meat of the bishop’s annual appeal,” he said.
Mummert passionately encourages everyone to help during Pledge Weekend on Feb. 13-14, even if it’s just a $1 donation in the collection plate, a one-time check, or by filling out a pledge envelope at Mass.
Your Donations at Work:
- Education: Schools received financial aid for 320 students totaling $410,700 during the 2015-2016 school year from the BAA and the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Endowment funds.
- Campus Ministry is present at more than 20 colleges across the state, helping students grow in their relationship with Christ.
- The Permanent Diaconate received funds for the education, instruction and training of 77 men in formation this year ($1,100 per candidate).
- The Office of Vocations increased programming across the diocese, giving rise to an average annual growth rate of 56%. In 2012, there were four applicants to the seminary; today there are 11.
- In 2015, the Office of Child Protection Services guided 5,219 individuals — diocesan and parish employees and those who volunteer and work with minors — through the Safe Environment Program.
- The new ministry of Pastoral Formation began under the Education and Faith Formation Office. It provides a formative experience for all employees of the diocese.
- Each year, over 3,500 children participate in diocesan youth events, including the Junior High Rally, High School Youth Conference, Young Ladies Retreat, Evangelization Team, Youth Rally for Life, Christian Leadership Institute, and more.
- The Office of Young Adult Ministry hosted over 90 participants at the fall retreat. These young adults represent every deanery plus the members and leaders of 12 thriving young adult groups.
- The Family Life Office organized a trip to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, highlighted by Pope Francis’ visit. Many parishioners attended along with diocesan leaders and their families.
- The Office of Ethnic Ministry created the “Media Evangelization Project” in the Upstate and on the web.
Personalized packets will be mailed to all registered households this week. Pledge weekend for the appeal will take place on Feb. 13-14.
To learn more about the BAA or to donate, visit https://sccatholic.org/donate.php.
The Bishop’s Annual Appeal supports:
- Catholic Charities
- Youth Ministry & School Grants
- Ministry & Outreach
- College Campus Ministry
- Retired Priests