Friday, August 11, 2006

A High School On the Strand

Once upon a time, this would be the week that the four of us -- my parents, sister and their handful of a son and brother -- would pack up the car and head 12 hours south for the annual vacation in Myrtle Beach. We did this for 11 years and, aside from the time that the luggage once fell off the roof in the middle of I-95, it's a miracle that we emerged in one piece.

Over those years, the explosive growth of the area around there was noticable. And all you had to do was pop into the 11am Mass at St Andrew's in the halcyon days when Joe Roth was there to know that, indeed, the Catholics had arrived as well. (Roth was named vicar-general of the diocese of Charleston in 2000, and I might've had something to do with that... but that's a story for another time.)

As the academic year prepares to kick off in the South, the Strand area is just now getting a Catholic high school of its own.

This month, Sacred Heart High School in Garden City Beach is ready to open its doors to its inaugural class of ninth-graders. It will be the only Catholic high school on the Grand Strand, based on the S.C. education department's private school listings.

"There is a desperate need for this in the community," said Altomari, the school's founder and administrator. "Really everything is being taught through the eyes of the [Catholic] faith, and that's just not something we have in this area."

In addition to a weekly Mass on campus, religion will be incorporated into core subjects such as biology, literature and history, said assistant administrator Donna Sutton. She said the history textbook students will use, for example, emphasizes the role of religion in the development of the Americas.

Speaking of high schools, the home team is querying parents in the exurbs on whether they could use another two. (Kudos on another feather for the cap of our most media-friendly local hierarch, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph McFadden, himself a high school teacher and basketball coach before he entered the seminary.)

On a wider note, in case you're not doing so already, keep a close eye on the church in the South. Between the influx of Yankee transplants and Latin immigrants, its growth over the last 25 years has been astonishing and shows no signs of abating. Everywhere you look, schools are popping up, parishes are unable to keep up with the burgeoning demands, and Easter Vigils are routinely bringing in 20-30 a year or more converts.

There's life in them thar hills, and things are at the point where the dynamism at the local level impels the dioceses to respond with the instituions and venues which allow for cohesion and gathering from across the local church, and that's where it gets interesting.

So before everyone's on the story when a Northern red hat goes South, just keep in mind that what's doing down there is of great note.