By PAUL A. BARRA
GLOVERVILLE – One day after his second anniversary as bishop of Charleston and three days after the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, Bishop Robert J. Baker journeyed to this hamlet in the peach belt of the Midlands to celebrate the life of Vincent. A Vincentian priest, three Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul sisters and a full house of worshipers joined the bishop on Sept. 30.
“We thank Father (John) Lawlor and the Daughters of Charity for carrying on the life and legacy of St. Vincent de Paul here at Our Lady of the Valley Parish in the Diocese of Charleston,” Bishop Baker said. “In a very important part of the Kingdom of God, the work of St. Vincent de Paul, the work of Jesus, continues.”
The work of Vincent included ministering to galley slaves, founding the Congregation of the Missions, co-founding the Daughters of Charity, establishing confraternities of charity in parishes for the relief of the poor and sick, and organizing wealthy women in Paris to collect funds for missionary work and for ransoming slaves. The 17th century French priest also started hospitals and seminaries, conducted retreats for clergy and was a pioneer in clerical training, according to the bishop, who once taught at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Fla.
Many parishes in the state have active St. Vincent de Paul Societies, which minister to the needy in local areas. Vincent once said: “… if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God, who chose to be poor.”
Father Lawlor, 82, is the sacramental priest for Our Lady of the Valley and has just received an extension of his ministry by his order. He thanked the bishop of Charleston for making his first-ever visit to the parish and encouraged the parishioners to follow the charism of the founder of the Vincentians: “St. Vincent’s whole message was to love your neighbor. He gave his life for that, and we can do the same. It’s a wonderful way to live.”
Vincent de Paul Chamberlain, a parishioner of Our Lady of the Valley, said that everyone in the small parish “contributed time and food for the feast that all Catholics celebrate.” Six members of the Aiken assembly of the Knights of Columbus (Fourth Degree) formed an honor guard for the bishop. “Father Lawlor gave us a call and we’re very happy to do this,” said Tom Monahon.
Charity Sister Maureen Houlihan said that the celebration at OLV, where she is stationed, was a natural for her order. Their superior, Father Robert Maloney in Rome, asked the Daughters of Charity and the Congregation of the Missions to concentrate especially on the hungry poor.
“All the Vincentian family has been called together for two years now in a concern for hunger,” Sister Houlihan said. “It’s interesting how Vincent has managed to live on.”
Deacon Bob Waters, pastoral life facilitator of the parish, and Carolyn Cleckley also served at the altar for the feast day celebration, along with two friends of the bishop’s from his seminary days, Father Tony Curran and Father James Peiffer.