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South Carolina’s Diverse Cultures Are Ready to Work

Black and Native American Catholics, along with the rest of the diocese, are elated and thankful that the Holy Father has sent Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune, CS, to lead our diocese. And for these communities, it means just a little more.

“For me, it rings with the acceptance, joy and hope that is taught by and through our Catholic faith, that God includes all in his family,” said Deacon Terrence Chisolm of St. Mary Church in Rock Hill.

The Diocese of Charleston is blessed to have a rich tapestry of diversity in our diocese. The Black and African American Catholic community includes, but is not limited to, immigrants from Africa, many from the African diaspora, and immigrants from South America and the Caribbean. Our Native American community represents various tribes.

“Though there’s still a long way to go in terms of inclusion and diversifying the Church, having a Black bishop is both exciting and a giant step in the right direction,” according to Michael Gourdin, parishioner at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville.

Gwen Whitner, a missionary to Haiti and a parishioner at St. Anthony of Padua, shared her excitement and confidence that Bishop Fabre will bring a special presence that encourages resiliency.

“As a missionary to Haiti, lovingly called ‘mom,’ I have come to embrace the uniqueness and resiliency of the Haitian people,” she said. “Though living in abject poverty, their love for God and Jesus is clear in words and deeds whether at work or play. Throughout the country, the written words Mesi Jezi, translated Messiah Jesus, can be seen on vehicles, buildings and door fronts. A true testimony of how the love of Christ can transcend all obstacles.”

Our diocese has been challenged for many years with trying to find solutions to our dwindling numbers of young adult Catholics locally and nationally. Many have left the Church, and those who are still here struggle to find a true sense of belonging. The future is with our children and young adults. All children need to see Church leaders and saints who look like them so they can experience a spirituality that mirrors their own uniqueness. This opportunity has presented itself for Black Catholics with the presence of our new bishop.

Imagine the inspiration to be felt among our youth and young adult men and women as they explore their vocations. We need more Black priests and religious brothers and sisters. What a great way to bring the Church back following the pandemic. The excitement of something new can be felt by all. In the State of South Carolina, folks will see the Catholic Church as growing stronger in its diversity. Together as one Church family, we continue to celebrate our diversity as a gift to the Church and show everyone that there is unity in diversity. Where there is unity, there is also love, peace and understanding.

On behalf of Black Catholics and Native American Catholics in our diocese, and using the words of Deborah Gourdin of St. Anthony of Padua, we send this message:

Dear Bishop,

You will need everyone’s help as you govern our diocese. Please know that we are ready to work. We thank God that he has seen fit to send us you as our new bishop. It is with immense joy that we welcome you to the Diocese of Charleston and assure you of our obedience, prayers, love and support.

May the good Lord continue to bless our diocese. Thank you for saying yes!

Kathleen Merritt is the director of the Office of Black Catholics and Native American Ministry. Email her at