Bishop David B. Thompson told parishioners at St. Paul the Apostle, “I came here to praise you.” The bishop was in Spartanburg on Jan. 31 for the Piedmont Deanery Diocesan Development Fund donor recognition Mass. He came to pay “special tribute to those who support the parish and the Diocesan Development Fund.”
The liturgy was third of four DDF donor recognition events held in each deanery to thank parishioners for last year’s contributions. Masses were also held throughout January and the beginning of this month at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston for the Coastal Deanery, Corpus Christi Church in Lexington for the Midlands Deanery, and St. Michael’s Church in Garden City for the Pee Dee Deanery.
In his Spartanburg homily, Bishop Thompson highlighted the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, which was observed on the previous Monday, Jan. 25. The bishop related how St. Paul told his story of conversion and was very proud “to have walked in the company of the Lord.” The bishop welcomed converts and those considering conversion. For those who might be struggling with the idea of conversion, he told them they are in good company, because St. Paul also struggled. “St. Paul’s conversion was not sudden … his surrender was.”
Sunday’s Gospel reading was the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). The Bishop said the beatitudes define what it means to be practicing Catholics and that they “invite Catholics to be a king that they “invite Catholics to be a kingdom people.” These ideals conflict with secular standards. Bishop Thompson related that “Jesus essentially issued his own death decree when he first preached the beatitudes.” He emphasized that peacemakers have to work at making peace and that being a peacemaker does not mean living peacefully.
Bishop Thompson reported his thrill at seeing Pope John Paul II in St. Louis. He was particularly impressed with the love young people have for the pope and praised the pope’s positive leadership of the young.
“He never scolds them,” he said.
He emphasized that Pope John Paul II and St. Paul are two outstanding missionaries of the same church and the same baptism.
The Bishop recounted an interesting anecdote of his journey to see Pope John Paul II. A woman on his plane asked if he were going to see the pope. He replied that he was. She asked how he got tickets. He told her, “I play on the same team.”
Bishop Thompson also discussed the importance of Catholic education.
“One of the jewels in the crown of the church is the Catholic school,” he said.
The Code of Canon Law says all Catholics are obligated to support Catholic education, particularly Catholic schools. The Bishop emphasized the need to build more Catholic primary schools to serve as feeders for a diocesan Catholic high school.
The Bishop reported that the issue of his successor has not been resolved yet. Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, papal pro-nuncio, phoned Bishop Thompson to say he had read about the farewell Masses around the diocese last October. The archbishop told him he was still the bishop until his successor has been appointed. Bishop Thompson said he did not know when this would occur but thought: “I will still be around to wish you a happy Easter.”
Before dismissing the congregation, Bishop Thompson complimented the choir and commended the altar servers for “serving on his team.” Father Michael R. De Antonio, pastor at St. Paul the Apostle, praised Bishop Thompson for “the goodness and kindness he has brought into the diocese.”
DDF Sunday will be observed throughout the diocese on Feb. 14.