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Alison Blanchet | Photo by Getty Images/SimoneN | July 2021

Dance Moms & Faithful Heroes

It all started with my kiddos getting involved in local theater. Next thing I know, they’re in a recital program with a bunch of tap and ballet numbers and I’m getting emails that begin, “Dear Dance Mom.”

Not exactly what I expected, but at least a dance recital with boys is pretty simple. Help them change shirts and remind them to re-apply deodorant. Then it’s back to playing Pokémon and waiting for their next routine. Standing around and waiting was how I learned that dance moms of girls are a tornado of taffeta, hairspray and lipstick. Girls would rush to their dressing rooms and a crew of moms and helpers would catch whatever they threw off and find everything they needed for the next act. There’s a lot that goes into getting five girls onstage for a few minutes of dance.

The Diocese of Charleston is celebrating 200 years, and as someone who grew up in South Carolina, I found myself reflecting on what I experienced in the approximately 20 years I lived there (10% of the bicentennial!) Our diocese is full of individuals who heroically shared their faith and life with my generation. While we might be familiar with the fruit of this work when we witness adults living their faith among us — we might not be aware of what happened behind the scenes.

One of my earliest memories of diocesan activities was attending the Youth Conference at Camp Thunderbird. In my mind, it included trudging uphill in the snow, but it probably just felt that way because I refused to wear my coat because it wasn’t cool. For a weekend in March, high-schoolers from parishes all over South Carolina gathered to learn, pray and have fun. When Camp Thunderbird got too small, the event was moved to White Oak. The hotel rooms were slightly more comfortable than the cabins at Thunderbird, but I know the adults who made the weekend possible — youth leaders and chaperones — still got very little sleep!

Adults in my home parish would pile me and other high-schoolers into vans and buses to take us to summer camps and conferences in Ohio, Atlanta and Florida. In the jubilee year, some especially brave souls even took us all the way to Rome to see St. John Paul II at World Youth Day. We walked all over Rome, camped outdoors all night for the closing Mass and rode the metro packed in like sardines. All these adventures helped me and my peers experience the universal Church in a profound way.

The seeds sown in my life by the adults who made all these experiences possible — my parents and countless others — continue to bear fruit. It’s a blessing to reflect on just how much my little chapter in our diocese’s 200 years impacted me, all because so many people worked together to share their faith at a formative time.

Just like all those dance moms who made everything happen behind the scenes, I’m sure the past 200 years hold many unsung heroes who nourished the faith of the next generation. As we look ahead, we can be thankful for this heritage and also ask ourselves what we have to offer for the future.

Alison Blanchet writes the column Team Catholic. She lives in Panama City with her husband and children. Email her at