In the last decade, the Catholic population of South Carolina has grown 24 percent — that’s more than 4,000 new Catholics a year.
As the number of faithful continues to expand, so does the need for programs to feed their bodies and souls.
Feeding the hungry is one of the most recognized acts of mercy, and last year, Catholic Charities provided food for almost 13,000 people.
They couldn’t have done it without the help of everyone who gave to the Bishops Annual Appeal, which has set a goal of $3.75 million this year.
Carrie Mummert, director of Stewardship and Mission Advancement, said any gift, large or small, is welcome and appreciated. She said people should never feel like they can’t afford to give.
“It isn’t about how much people give because every dollar makes a difference,” Mummert said.
She noted that 100 percent of donations go to fund diocesan ministries, but there is always more that can be done.
In his appeal, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone stated that “There are hungry among us that are going unfed. … Many in our midst thirst for a deeper relationship with Christ. We must continue our evangelization efforts in order to share our faith.”
One of the most effective ways of sharing the faith is through youth programs.
Every year, rallies and retreats by the Office of Youth Ministry open hearts to the love and mercy of God.
Nikki Foscolos, a member of the Diocesan Evangelization Team, praised the importance of youth events, noting that she first heard God calling her to action at a diocesan youth conference.
“If it wasn’t for DYC, I wouldn’t have heard God’s voice. … I would not be the person I am today,” she said.
One of the newest programs from youth ministry is the Diocesan Missionary Team, which began in September and has helped teens encounter Christ at over 60 retreats so far.
Mary Beth Vernau, a member of the missionary team, said everyone has felt a positive impact from the evangelization efforts. She recalls the experience of being able to help a young girl at a retreat who was going through a terrible time.
“God had given me that opportunity to just love her, and to just share with her that she was good and He had a plan … it’s something we all deserve,” Vernau said.
From campus ministry to senior ministry, people are lifted up by diocesan programs, both by giving and receiving.
Another addition to the diocese is the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy, who were invited by Bishop Guglielmone to share their mission of care and compassion with those at Carter May Home/St. Joseph Residence. The residents are thrilled to have the spiritual care of the sisters.
Two of the ministries most asked about are vocations and the retirement fund for diocesan priests, said Mummert, adding that people are very concerned about supporting potential priests, and the welfare of those pastors in their retirement years. She said the allocation given to the retirement fund seems small, but it covers all the needs.
Father Timothy Gahan is one of those retired priests. Not only does he receive support from the BAA, but he also contributes each year. He said it’s all about practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
“The appeal benefits a large number of our fellow parishioners, members of our diocesan family, and our non-Catholic friends and neighbors as well, who need and deserve our support,” Father Gahan said.
Last year the BAA raised $4.3 million from 25 percent of households. The bishop noted that figure still leaves 75 percent untapped, and wondered at the good the diocese could accomplish if everyone gave.
“Together let’s do the Lord’s work and continue to build His kingdom,” he said.
Top photo provided: Ursuline Sister Maria Lovett greets well-wishers at her retirement celebration at St. Joseph Church and School in Columbia, where she taught for more than 40 years.
Where does the BAA funding go?
25% — Youth Ministry & School Grants
- 3,000+ participated in rallies and retreats
- 7,206 children in 34 schools
- $315,000 for tuition assistance
24% — Catholic Charities
- Helped 52,327 people
- 12,667 people received food through our Wellness Pantries
- Over 900 people’s lives were changed by the Save-a-Smile program
21% — Ministry & Outreach
- 5,888 volunteers received safety training from the Office of Child Protection for the 2015-2016 school year
- 500+ engaged in pastoral formation
- 500+ enrolled in Hispanic School of Faith
- Over 1,200 participated in Ethnic Ministry celebrations
- Others were helped at pregnancy support centers, family life ministries and Natural Family Planning programs
17% — Vocations
- There are 167 ordained permanent deacons with 30 additional candidates participating in the diaconate formation program
- 168 priests; up 35 percent over 10 years
- 18 seminarians, a jump of 200 percent in one year
11% — College Campus Ministry
- Programs at 21 colleges & universities
- Over 60 college students in the last 10 years have helped build homes in Guatemala
2% — Retired Priests
- Provides pensions and healthcare
- There are currently 23 retired priests, with an estimated 36 by 2023, just six years away
Except where noted, statistics are from the 2016 BAA.