Thursday, July 26, 2007

Carolina State Symbols: Tar Heels, Palmettos -- and Seminarians

Further evidencing the rise of the Southern states as American Catholicism's boomtown, Bishop Robert Baker of Charleston will ordain six new priests tomorrow night -- the largest crop for South Carolina's lone diocese (Catholic pop. 176,000) since 1956.

Due to the large number of candidates, the ordination Mass is being held in a convention center in the state capital of Columbia. In May, the historic local church (founded in 1820) welcomed 22 new permanent deacons; since 1990, its Catholic presence has more than doubled, now comprising 4% of the general population.

Just up I-95 in the diocese of Raleigh, eight "new men" are entering formation this fall, bringing its total number of seminarians to 21. The result of Bishop Michael Burbidge's full-court press for a heightened awareness of priestly vocations in the burgeoning diocese, in a stroke of pure coincidence, come September the Raleigh recruits will find themselves at St Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where the bishop served as rector from 1999-2004.

The chair-elect of the USCCB's Committee on Vocations, Burbidge marks his first anniversary in North Carolina next weekend, and one of the incoming class was profiled in the local News & Observer last weekend.

Clearly, the ref's jersey (with coat of arms patch) paid off.

Joe Benton/The New Catholic Miscellany