CHARLESTON — On Dec. 23, Msgr. Robert E. Guglielmone was walking his dog in the park and meditating on priestly service and St. John the Baptist when he received a call from Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
The nuncio told the rector of St. Agnes Cathedral in Rock ville Centre, N.Y., that Pope Benedict XVI had selected him as the 13th bishop of the Diocese of Charleston.
During a Jan. 24 press conference in Charleston, Bishop-designate Guglielmone related how he learned of his appointment.
“I was reflecting on an excerpt from the writings of Pope Benedict XVI contained in a book of daily meditations I had read earlier in the day: the theme of the meditation was on priestly service and it focused on St. John the Baptist who was presented as the ‘voice’ that carried the ‘Word’ to others,” Bishop-designate Guglielmone said. “While the voice diminishes, the Word takes root in the heart of the listener.
“The Holy Father wrote that as this was the case for John the Baptist, that he decrease while Jesus increase, so too is it the case for the priest. This model of priesthood, embodied in John the Baptist, was occupying my mind when my cell phone rang. How wonderful to learn of coming to a diocese whose cathedral and patronage bears the name of the one who prepared the way of the Lord.”
The new bishop made arrangements to come to South Carolina expressly for the press conference and returned home immediately. He set the date of his ordination for March 25 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
While it is assuredly a loss for his parish, Bishop-designate Guglielmone, age 64, is the answer to the prayers of Catholics of South Carolina, who have been without a bishop since Most Rev. Robert J. Baker was assigned to the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., in August 2007. Msgr. Martin T. Laughlin has held the reins as diocesan administrator during the 17-month interim and graciously welcomed the new shepherd.
“Msgr. Guglielmone, on behalf of the priests and people of the Diocese of Charles ton, I welcome you to your new home,” Msgr. Laughlin said. “For a year-and-a-half we have been praying for you as we awaited the news of the appointment of a new shepherd for the church of Charles ton. As the good shepherd cares for his sheep, so we know you will care for the church God has entrusted to you, laying down your life for her, so that you may offer her back to the Father more beautiful and more holy than you received her.
“Your love of the church and your care and concern for the youth will be a great blessing to the Diocese of Charleston and the universal church. We will continue to pray for you each and every day and we offer to you our service for God’s glory,” Msgr. Laughlin said.
Bishop-designate Guglielmone was born in New York City on Dec. 30, 1945, and raised in Mastic Beach, N.Y. He attended Catholic schools and graduated from St. John’s University in Jamaica, N.Y., in 1968. He received a master’s degree in education from New York University and a Master of Divinity from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception.
He began his career as a business teacher at Patchogue-Medford High School in New York from 1968-1973, and directed its work study program from 1970-1973. At age 28 he answered the call to the priesthood and was ordained April 8, 1978, in St. James Church in Setauket, N.Y.
His first assignment was to St. Martin of Tours in Amityville, N.Y., as associate pastor from 1978-1986. He returned to education by becoming director of pastoral formation and dean of seminarians at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, N.Y., from 1986-1993. He was assigned as pastor to St. Frances de Chantal in Wantagh, N.Y., until 2004. He was awarded the Prelate of Honor and the title monsignor in 1996.
Bishop-designate Guglielmone became diocesan director of clergy personnel in 2004 and served in that capacity until Bishop William F. Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre named him rector of St. Agnes Cathedral in 2007.
Bishop-designate Guglielmone is an avid supporter of Scouting and has served as chaplain on local and diocesan levels and in various capacities on the National Catholic Committee on Scouting. He continues to serve as an executive board member. The Vatican appointed him to serve as world chaplain to Catholic Scouting in Nov. 2000 and he was reappointed in 2004. His term ended this year.
He has also been active with the Knights of Columbus serving as member and chaplain over the years.
During the press conference, Bishop-designate Guglielmone remarked on how he was feeling.
“I am both humbled and grateful that His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, would entrust this awesome ministry to me,” he said. “I must admit that I am a bit anxious about leaving Long Island where I have spent almost my whole life and certainly all my life as a priest.”
In a brief interview with The Miscellany he expressed what his hopes were for the people of God in South Carolina.
“I want them to be ever more deeply inspired by the message of the Gospel in ways that unite us,” he said, “for together we can have a greater effect in making the kingdom of God come to fruition. But we have got to come together.”
On coming to the diocese he will face many challenges in the years ahead, but one of the greatest may be the correct pronunciation of his name, which is “gōō-yel-mō-nē.”
In offering his congratulations, Bishop Baker joked that at least during the eucharistic prayer at Mass, priests will have had practice with the first name Robert.
“I have extended my congratulations, fraternal support and prayers” to the bishop-designate, Bishop Baker told The Miscellany in a phone interview.
“I have heard wonderful things about the new bishop from Bishop Murphy from the Diocese of Rockville Centre,” he said, “and from others who know him well. The Holy Father was kind and gracious in appointing a very astute and very pastoral leader for the Diocese of Charleston. I join all of you in thanking Msgr. Martin Laughlin for serving the Diocese of Charleston with such dedication as administrator for the past 17 months.”
The bishop-designate will return to Charleston in February and celebrate a vesper service at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The public is invited to attend.