Interfaith Panel Shares Both Differences and Unity

By Bob Castello

A distinguished group provided a variety of profound thoughts during Wednesday night’s interfaith panel discussion in the St. John Paul II Center at St. Joseph’s Catholic School.
But, as some of them pointed out, it wasn’t as much about what they said as it was about the fact that they were there to say it.
They came to try to answer the question, “Who is My Neighbor?” While pointing out the obstacles that still exist, they also reminded the gathering about the erosion of such barriers.
“They’re actually being worn away, and you who are all here are proof of that,” said Frances Worthington, a representative of Greenville’s Baha’i congregation. “Twenty years ago, you might not have come to this, and today you did.”
“Fifty years ago, we wouldn’t have had this meeting,” said Rev. Dennis McManus, a Georgetown University professor and consultant for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Jewish Relations Committee.
“A hundred years ago, it would have been laughable to have such a thing. Nobody would believe this. And five hundred years ago, we’d have been arrested.”
On Wednesday night, they were applauded, primarily for their presence but also for their forthright responses to questions about their differences.
Dr. Akif Aydin, a Muslim and president of the Atlantic Institute, which was founded “to bridge the deep gap of social interaction and “to promote respecting differences,” said he initiates dialogue with his neighbors so “they do not feel there is a terrorist that moved into the neighborhood.”
“I’m sorry that you should have to feel like you have to convince people that you’re not a threat,” said Rabbi Matthew Marko of Congregation Beth Israel, a conservative synagogue in Greenville.
His response drew a couple of amens from the audience.
“My hope is that we’ve learned that there’s a reconciliation model where we can come and go to each other without feeling anyone has the obligation,” said Rev. Ronald Smith of First Christian Church in Greenville.

Wednesday’s event was organized by St. Joseph’s English teacher Jennie Neighbors, who was inspired by “a very dark week” at the end of October.
Eleven people were killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh because they were Jewish. A white man killed two black people at a supermarket in Kentucky. A man killed two women at a yoga studio in Florida.
In addition, 15 bombs were found throughout the U.S. that had been planted against individuals and organizations because of their political affiliations.
“So in the space of a week,” Neighbors said, “we saw violent hate crimes against individuals because of religion, race, gender and politics.”
Neighbors attended a vigil organized by the Greenville Jewish Federation in remembrance of the Tree of Life victims, as well as those killed in the Kentucky supermarket.
“Speakers of various faiths came together publicly to recognize and support each other,” Neighbors said.
That led to Wednesday’s gathering, at which Father Sandy McDonald, pastor of St. John Neumann Parish in Columbia, served as moderator.
“It’s a great way for a school community to be exposed to both the differences and the fundamental unities of being human,” said McManus, the Georgetown professor.
“In the Christian tradition, the following of Jesus means everyone is my neighbor. There are no exceptions to that, despite what Christians have done over the centuries to create exceptions.”
Pastor Deb Richardson-Moore of Triune Mercy Center, a non-denominational mission church that ministers alongside the homeless in downtown Greenville, brought up the parable of the Good Samaritan and then recounted her early days of working with the homeless. She listened and provided groceries and anything else for which she could shop.
That was before she realized their real need was “freedom from alcohol or drug addiction” and “a change in mindset.”
“The true neighbor is one who is discerning about what is needed,” she said.

There remains a need in the area of overcoming obstacles. The group discussed racism, marriages between people of different religious backgrounds and the reasons for division.
Rabbi Marko said “a lack of pluralism in thought” causes separation.
“We’ve become us and them, right and wrong, winner, loser,” he said. “When I look at what we’re all talking about, really at the core of it, we’re all talking about the same stuff. We think we’re so different, but we’re not.”
That they could come together in the first place was noteworthy where St. Joseph’s student body president Davis Cooney was concerned.
“Just a couple hours earlier in the day,” said Cooney, “Father (Jonathan) Duncan celebrated Mass on the very stage that we’re having four different faith groups talk about their differences and their unity.”
Then he asked the group what provides them with hope for the future.
Richardson-Moore said she leads a congregation of about 280, but 66 churches and organizations of various beliefs come to assist them.
“Many of them would never have a woman in their pulpit,” she said, “but they believe that God told us to serve the poor, and so they come to Triune and do that.”
Marko recalled an incident just a few days after the Pittsburgh shooting, days when he was tending to the needs of others and “didn’t have time for myself to sort of have that moment.”
He was alone in his office when a family came to the door, parents with two children. Marko paused while collecting himself.
“They brought me a plant, a simple plant,” he said, still gripped by emotion, “and that was the first time since I heard the news that I had a shoulder that I could cry on. That one family with that one plant is hope.”
Just as one diverse group on one stage is hope.

National Merit Finalists Named

St. Joseph’s Catholic School is pleased to announce that seniors Anthony Cinquemani and Joshua Powers have been named National Merit Finalists. All Finalists are considered for National Merit Scholarship and approximately 7,500 Finalist from the group of more than 15,000 Finalists nationwide will be selected.  NMSC will begin mailing scholarship offers to winners in March. Congratulations on this tremendous achievement!

St. Joseph’s would also like to congratulate this year’s Commended Scholars, Luke Cunniffe and Liliana Jaraczewski.  These students placed among the top 50,000 of more than 1.6 million students who entered the competition by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT).

Boys and Girls Varsity Basketball Head to State Playoffs

Both Boys & Girls Varsity basketball claimed victories in their region tiebreaker games, sending them to the State Playoffs. The Boys defeated Blacksburg 53-38, and the Girls defeated Southside Christian 43-40 in their rematch on Friday.

Below is the schedule for our 1st Round Basketball games. We hope you can get out and cheer on your Knights as they compete for their State Championships!

Girls Basketball 1st Round game:

Play at Saluda High School on Tuesday 2/12 at 6:00pm. The school address is 160 Ivory Key Road, Saluda, SC 29138. If we win, the girls will play on the road Friday evening 2/15.

Boys Basketball 1st Round game:

Play at Eau Claire High School on Wednesday 2/13 at 7:00pm. The school address is 4800 Monticello Road, Columbia, SC 29203. If we win, the boys will play on the road Saturday evening 2/16.

SJCS Seniors Bynum and Thompson Sign to Play Division I College Ball

The Athletic Department is pleased to announce that seniors Luke Bynum and Kyra Thompson have committed to continuing their athletic careers in college at the winter signing day on February 6, 2019.

Bynum will be playing Division I football at Furman University, joining his teammate and classmate Jake Johanning who signed in the fall.  Thompson will be playing Division I Beach Volleyball for the College of Charleston. Congratulations to these student athletes on their success, and we look forward to following their careers!

American Leprosy Missions Visits Sixth Grade Academy

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16

In the latest Sixth Grade Academy Altruism in Action event, the students welcomed Mr. Jim Oehrig from American Leprosy Missions to share about his work in Africa and India. The students have been studying the virtues of fortitude and perseverance. Mr. Oehrig’s visit not only brought these virtues to life in a powerful way, but also brought many Gospel stories about people suffering from leprosy to life as well. The children listened with rapt attention as Mr. Oehrig shared stories of hope and bringing not only medical treatment, but also bringing Christ’s love and treating people with dignity even though you may be afraid of their suffering or how they might look.

To help engage the student in some of the challenges a person with leprosy might face, the students competed to see who could unwrap a Hershey Kiss with oven mitts on, mimicking the lack of feeling in the hands.

In preparation for his visit, the students had collected loose change to help provide care for children and adults suffering from leprosy, and were able to present Mr. Oehrig with a very heavy sack of change totaling just over $1700! This amount, the students learned, could provide care and change the lives of at least four people suffering from this disease half a world away.

Anthony Ray Hinton: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row – Feb 27

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row

Wednesday, February 27, 2019
7 – 8:30 PM Book signing to follow
McAlister Auditorium, Furman University

Reserve Your Seat

For reserved front area seating, SJCS community members should indicate “St. Joseph’s” after checking the group seating option.

Anthony Ray Hinton — Exonerated after 30 years on death row

Anthony Ray Hinton spent thirty years on death row for a crime he did not commit. Wrongly convicted in the state of Alabama for two capital murders with erroneous evidence and inadequate representation, Hinton was eventually exonerated after more than a decade of litigation by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) on his behalf.
Hinton now travels across the world speaking about his experience and serves as the EJI’s community educator. Most recently, Hinton has authored a memoir, The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row, which Oprah Winfrey selected as her Book Club Summer 2018 Read.

St. Joseph’s Catholic School is sponsoring this event with the Furman University NAACP, Furman University Religious Council, Furman University Poverty Awareness Committee, and the Furman University Student Diversity Council.

For more information or if you need group seating for 20 or more, please call the Riley Institute at 864.294.3546.

Interfaith Panel Discussion: “Who Is My Neighbor?” Feb 13

Join us at St. Joseph’s Catholic School on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 for an Interfaith Panel Discussion addressing the question “Who Is My Neighbor?”.

John Paul II Center
7:00 PM
Free and open to the public

The evening will be moderated by Fr. Sandy McDonald, pastor of St. John Neumann Parish in Columbia, South Carolina. We are pleased to welcome the following diverse board of panelists:

Rev. Dennis McManus, Ph.D. Georgetown University professor, consultant for the USCCB’s Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and Jewish Catholic Relations Committee.

Dr. Akif Aydin President of the Atlantic Institute. The Atlantic Institute was founded to bridge the deep gap of social interaction, to promote respecting differences, and to commit to the common good in the State of South Carolina.

Rabbi Matthew Marko of Congregation Beth Israel, a Conservative Synagogue in Greenville, South Carolina.

Pastor Deb Richardson-Moore of Triune Mercy Center, a non-denominational mission church that ministers alongside the homeless in downtown Greenville, South Carolina.

Rev. Ronald Smith of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Greenville, South Carolina.

Frances Worthington, author and a representative of the Greenville community’s Baha’i congregation.


Ava Dobson Named Two-Time Gatorade Runner of the Year

In its 34th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company announced Ava Dobson of St. Joseph’s Catholic School as its 2018-19 Gatorade South Carolina Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. Dobson is the first Gatorade South Carolina Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year to be chosen from St. Joseph’s Catholic School.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse, distinguishes Dobson as South Carolina’s best high school girls cross country runner and is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year award to be announced in February.

The 5-foot-6 junior raced to the Class 2A state championship this past season with a time of 18:03.47, leading the Knights to the state title as a team. The state’s returning Gatorade Girls Cross  Country  Runner  of  the Year, Dobson also won  the  Greenville  County  championships  and  the  CiCi’s  Sandhills  Invitational.  She  placed  14th  at  the  Foot  Locker South Regional championships.

Dobson has volunteered locally on behalf of Triune Mercy Center, helping the low-income and homeless populations in Greenville, along with Rise Against Hunger, an international humanitarian aid organization in addition to donating her time to a summer camp for special needs children. “Ava is a true example of tenacity in the face of  adversity,” said St. Joseph’s coach Marie Kernell. “Even when she couldn’t race because of an injury sustained at the end of  the track season, she worked just as hard as everyone else with the goal of joining her team as soon as her doctor would release her.  She’s  very  coachable, a  team  player, positive, humble and upbeat.”

Dobson has maintained an A average in the classroom. She will begin her senior year of high school this fall.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.


Two-time winner Dobson joins Gatorade South Carolina Girls Cross Country Runners of the Year Cate Ambrose (2016- 17, Riverside High School), Logan Morris (2015-16 & 2014-15, Spartanburg Christian Academy) and Ashbrook Gwinn (2013-14, Aiken High School) as athletes who have won the cross country award since its inception in 2007.


As a part of Gatorade’s cause marketing platform “Play it Forward,” Dobson has the opportunity to award a $1,000 grant to a local or national youth sports organization of her choosing. She is also eligible to submit an essay to win one of twelve $10,000 spotlight grants for the organization of choice, which will be announced throughout the year.


Since the program’s inception in 1985,  Gatorade  Player  of  the  Year  award  recipients  have  won  hundreds  of professional and college championships, and many have also turned into pillars in their communities, becoming coaches, business owners and educators.


To learn more about the Gatorade Player of the Year program, check out past winners or to nominate student-athletes, visit, on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at



SJCS Spirit Week Concludes with $41k Gift to St. Anthony’s

Spirit Week 2019 concluded Friday night with the basketball games and check presentation to this year’s beneficiary, St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School. After a full week of student led fundraising activities, Student Council was thrilled to report the week’s total came to $41,320!

This year’s fundraising is particularly exciting as the total is on par with the past several years of joint effort between SJCS and CCES. This year reflects the efforts of St. Joseph’s students alone. We are very proud of the hard work and generous hearts of our students to be able to give such tremendous support to our fellow Catholic school!

Both games Friday night were incredibly exciting and great competitions between our varsity basketball program and that of our athletic rival school, Christ Church. The Cavaliers took home the victories this year by a narrow margin, the Lady Knights going down 29-39 and the boys 47-50.

Special thanks to Susan Cinquemani for providing photos.

Food Truck Rally At Spirit Week Basketball Games – Friday, Jan 25

To close Spirit Week and kick off Catholic Schools Week, there will be a Food Truck Rally this Friday as we host CCES for girls and boys basketball!

Friday, January 25
SJCS Campus
6:00 – 9:00 PM

Come out and support our Knights and enjoy dinner with your family! Available will be BBQ goodness from Wholy Smoke and the most flavorful hot dogs you’ll even eat from Resident Dogs, along with Chick-fil-A sandwiches sold by the Booster Club.


New Baseball Hit House and Bullpen to be Named After Papal Honoree Joe Pazdan Sr.

Behind every project St. Joseph’s undertakes is a desire to serve the mission of our school and a dedicated team moving the work forward through their labor, their prayers, and their financial investment. As construction continues for improvements to the baseball field, we would like to recognize the longtime support of “Papa” Joe Pazdan Sr. and his wife Mack.

Early this month, Joe was honored at a baseball dinner attended by more than 80 current, alumni and prospective baseball families. The dinner, organized by the Pace and Marchal families, was a chance to update the baseball community on construction progress, enjoy fellowship together, and to celebrate the generosity of the Pazdan family’s contributions to the project. Through the combined gifts of Joe Sr., Joe Jr. and John Pazdan, the family has made a substantial financial gift to the baseball project, enabling the new hit house and bullpen area to be named in honor of Joe Sr.

Headmaster Keith Kiser spoke at the dinner, thanking the Pazdan family and sharing what they have meant to the school over the years. Joe’s wife Allie McIntosh “Mack” Pazdan served on the board of trustees, was the founder of our St. Anne’s Guild, and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was given to the school by her family in her honor and now memory. 

Chairman of the Board Matt Utecht discussed further details of the construction project, Michael Pace reviewed the baseball project wish list, Coach Turmon presented on the status of the baseball program, and two SJCS baseball alumni – Sterling Turmon and Angelo Pahila –  spoke about the impact of the program on their lives.

John Pazdan shared some of his father’s story, telling how pitching for the North Carolina Tar Heels kept Joe from the life of a factory worker in his native Trenton, NJ and led him eventually to meet his wife and settle in Greenville. He also shared about Joe’s support of Catholic education and healthcare in the Upstate, for which Joe recently received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, the highest award of honor bestowed by the Holy Father to lay people and clergy. The medal, gold with a white and yellow ribbon, was given to him on January 13 in Charleston, officiated by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone on behalf of Pope Francis.

St. Joseph’s Catholic School is profoundly grateful for the continued support of Joe Pazdan and his family, and we are honored to count them among those who have made our school the nationally recognized institution of faithful Catholic education it is today.

Middle School Wrestling Goes to State After Region Wins

Congratulations to Middle School Wrestlers Logan Dodge, 8th grade, who placed 1st in the Regional State Wrestling Tournament, and to Hammond Fayssoux, 7th grade, who placed 4th. Both boys will be going on to compete at the JV & MS Carolina Invitational State Tournament this weekend in 100 pound weight class. Congratulations on your achievements and good luck in Lexington tomorrow! GO KNIGHTS!


Special thanks to parent correspondent Bridget d’Anjou for this update.

St. Joseph’s Attends March for Life in Washington DC

Today, thirty St. Joe’s students and four faculty chaperones join over 200,000 participants at the annual March for Life in Washington, DC. The students chose to miss the opening day of the SJCS Spirit Week and to march in freezing cold weather to show their support for the right to life of all people, from conception to natural death.

Thank you to faculty chaperones Lynn Connelly, Kenneth Covington, Shawna Fesler, and Karl Orbon, who is also the Students for Life moderator.


Winter Outerwear Sale – Closes January 22

We’ve opened a quick Winter sale for items to keep you cozy during these colder months!

Students are permitted to wear SJCS Spirit Wear on Fridays and outerwear any day of the week (except Wednesday), so stock up for those upcoming chilly fall and winter days. 


Shop Now

For any questions contact Macie Lawton, SJCS SpiritWear Committee Chair.

Items will arrive the week of February 4th. 

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