CHARLESTON—On a January day that felt like spring, eight South Carolinians were honored for being living witnesses to their faith.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone bestowed papal honors from Pope Francis at a vespers service held Jan. 15 in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Family members and friends of the honorees, many of whom had traveled long distances, filled the pews.
The recipients included three lay people, three priests, a religious sister and a deacon, all of them nominated by Bishop Guglielmone for work that builds up both the Church and society in South Carolina.
“Our Catholic faith has so influenced the lives of these people that thousands have benefited because of their commitment to live the faith in so many ways,” the bishop said during his homily.
Joseph P. Riley Jr., former mayor of the City of Charleston, was named a Knight of St. Gregory, and Jean Hoefer Toal, retired chief justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, became a Dame of St. Gregory.
Both said it was special to receive their honors on the same day because they have known each other since childhood. Riley added that the day was emotional because he was baptized in the Cathedral and is a member there.
“It was very humbling and an extraordinarily proud moment for me,” he said. “I’m grateful to Bishop Guglielmone for his support and so honored to be recognized by Pope Francis, who is doing so much for our world.”
Msgr. James LeBlanc, pastor of St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach, received the honor of Chaplain of His Holiness and now has the title of reverend monsignor.
The Pro Ecclesia and Pontifice Cross was given to Adorno Father Nicholas Capetola, retired pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek; Adorno Father Frank Palmieri, pastor of St. Anne and St. Jude Parish in Sumter; Sister Pamela Smith of the Sisters of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, diocesan secretary for education and faith formation, and Deacon André Guillet, director of the diocesan diaconate program.
“This is a great reminder of the call to serve,” Sister Pamela said. “One of my favorite Scriptures says ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me’, (Philippians 4:13) and this award shows that is what it’s all about.”
Kathy Schmugge, diocesan director of the Office of Family Life, said she was “overwhelmed” at receiving the Benemerenti Medal and happy that the award helped show the importance of family issues.
“I’m grateful for the recognition that we are doing good and holy work,” she said. “I see the honor as encouragement to keep saying yes to God’s will and do it with joy!”
Top photo, Miscellany/Doug Deas: Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone presents the certificate denoting that Father James LeBlanc, pastor of St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach, received the honor of Chaplain of His Holiness, and now has the title of reverend monsignor.