It’s sometimes tough being a Catholic in America.
In California, Governor Newsom’s rigorous and discriminatory limits on church attendance were only recently overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Oregon, rioters overtook part of downtown Portland, shattering glass doors at Saint André Bessette Catholic Church’s entrance in the city’s Old Town.
In Minnesota, violent protests following the shooting of Daunte Wright were marked by looting and violence, making cities unsafe for their inhabitants.
And more than that, in many areas today, it is difficult for Catholic mothers and fathers to raise their children without government interference, in a community where people share their faith and values.
In response to the challenges posed by the secular culture, some parents have doubled down, choosing to enroll their children in religious schools or to homeschool. Increasingly, however, Catholic parents are reconsidering their options — even moving their families across the country in search of a community where faith is respected and nurtured.
Those families may come together in an intentional community, such as the Catholic community in Ave Maria, Florida, or the recently announced Veritatis Splendor community in the Diocese of Tyler, Texas.
Others find a parish in their hometown that is determined to preserve and strengthen faith in their parish and school.
One parish, Our Lady of the Rosary (OLR) in Greenville, South Carolina, draws Catholic families from around the area and across the country, and has even coined a word to describe what’s been happening there: “Relocatiō.” Relocatiōis, a neologism that is supposed to sound like Latin.
The created term describes the phenomenon of Catholic families relocating for reasons of faith and culture.
As of April 2021, 14 new families moved to Greenville to attend OLR from 11 states — California, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Nevada — and more are on their way.
It is easy for them to assimilate because they tend to share fundamental core values. This makes it very different from receiving a potpourri of new families coming for, say, work-related reasons.
Some of the Catholic transplants became aware of OLR because its pastor, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, is a prominent author, blogger, and speaker. Others were impressed after the parish dedicated a beautiful new church built in the Romanesque style in 2019.
Many of OLR’s new families chose to enroll their children in OLR’s K-12 classical academy, which seeks to support parents in their role as the primary educators of their children.
According to the mission statement:
“Our rigorous classical training draws out of students their natural desire for wisdom and virtue. By fostering a love for truth, beauty, and goodness, we seek to form disciples of Jesus Christ, set free to realize their full potential by living joyfully in accordance with the truth revealed by God through nature and the Catholic Church.”
School’s headmaster Thomas Curtin said the pandemic restrictions give extra momentum to the “Relocatiō” initiative.
Curtin reported that many newcomers flee places that are inhospitable or openly hostile to religion.
“What’s happened,” he said, “is that people’s sense of the stakes has changed. We’re no longer comparing ‘good’ with ‘better.’ We’re comparing ‘completely unacceptable’ with ‘good.’
“If we lack the ability to renew the Church because we’re overwhelmed by the culture, then we are called to be a pilgrim people — a pilgrim Church — to find the place where we can make our gift.”
Curtin believes Our Lady of the Rosary is a haven, opening its doors to welcome even refugees of sorts.
He reported that some of the immigrant families encourage those in their former communities to become part of the new movement of families taking up residence in the Upstate of South Carolina and registering at OLR.
“I thought it was important for people to have a way of talking about this emergent behavior — to brand it, so to speak,” Curtin said.
“Many Catholics feel deep responsibility to stick it out where they are, to be loyal to their parish and community. That’s a good thing. But there is no denying that changing circumstances are pushing people to take dramatic action.
“They are not moving across town, but across the country. When people realize they’re participating in a movement, they see they are not just being weak. They are being responsive to the Holy Spirit. They feel confirmed in their instinct that what they are experiencing is not right for their family. God desires more for them.”
“A Huge Blessing in Our Lives”
Kyle and Molly Dardis moved from Oregon to Greenville with their five children a year ago.
“We are so grateful we made the move,” Molly reports. “It has been a huge blessing in our lives.”
The town that the Dardis family had called home had changed, becoming the U.S. city with the highest population of homeless people per capita. That distinction brought with it tent communities, used needles on the sidewalks, and conditions making Molly feel less safe.
Their community’s Catholic school also disappointed Molly, so she spent six years homeschooling their children, ages five to 11. Now, the Dardis children benefit from Our Lady of the Rosary’s classical curriculum.
“Last week, our fifth-grade son came home wanting to talk about Lech Wałęsa, the Catholic president of Poland,” Molly reported.
She said the faith formation program is solid, and that the curriculum helps her children develop memory skills — memorizing a Bible verse each week, learning to name all of the countries in Europe, and reciting historical poetry.
Even more, Molly believes that her children benefit from attending school alongside other children from strong families whose parents are firmly committed to the Catholic faith.
“A Homeschool Vibe”
Ma’May Grimm moved to Greenville with her husband Greg and their children, Thaddeus (8) and Eponine (4), on the Saturday before Easter in 2021. Ma’May talked about their decision to relocate.
“During COVID, we did a lot of soul-searching,” she explained.
“We realized that we were renting for more than ten years…I worked at school, and three other part-time jobs. My husband also worked full-time.
“We said a couple of novenas, then sat down and looked at the pros and cons. We both had to quit our jobs, and we didn’t know what would happen when we moved out here. But God has been so good!”
Ma’May submitted her resume, hoping to work at her children’s school in some capacity. She had some teaching experience, but was not credentialed.
The headmaster told her that credentials are great, but that the school does not base hiring decisions exclusively on that. They accepted her as a substitute teacher, and she also volunteers her time.
“That’s a blessing,” she said, “because I would prefer to be there, helping the children.”
The classic literature included in the curriculum drew the Grimms’ to Our Lady of the Rosary school, but learning that the entire school attends Mass each week also impressed them.
“In California,” she told the Register, “the preschoolers and kindergarteners did not have to go to Mass.”
It concerned her that some of the children might not learn the importance of the liturgy at home.
Thirdly, Ma’May added that the children say the Pledge of Allegiance at OLR school.
The Grimm children now thrive in their new environment.
Eponine, age 4, loves her new school and is adjusting well. Thaddeus, 8, was not yet writing in cursive, but he mastered it within his first week at OLR. Ma’May reported with a smile that his writing had become clearer than hers.
With 27 children in his California classroom, Thaddeus had difficulty concentrating. Now at OLR, he completes his assignments.
Ma’May called the atmosphere at Our Lady of the Rosary “kind of a homeschool vibe.” She felt that the emphasis on family involvement was important.
“I love that part of education,” she explained. “It’s a bit more strict in some ways, but in other ways, it’s more laid back. The respect and the quiet in the classroom is just what my son needs in order to focus.”
The Grimms’ temporarily share a home with Ma’May’s mother and stepfather, while her husband continues seeking full-time employment.
Things Were Changing
Pat and Michelle Langowski also recently traded their Minnesota address for one in South Carolina.
The couple reported:
“We did not like the way the place we lived was changing, and we started to see these changes affect our children and their learning. The focus seemed less and less on quality education and good values, and more about pushing a specific agenda.
“We are grateful to have found OLR!
“We made the decision to move our family (grandparents, too) across the country to live in a place where people didn’t apologize for being Catholic.
“Furthermore, we have the confidence of knowing our children are receiving a quality, classical, and authentically Catholic education.
“We know they attend a school where Catholic values are explained and celebrated. We see that the world is all too eager to impose its values on children. We are thrilled that the place our children spend the majority of their day is a Catholic, classical, loving and caring place.”
Our Lady of the Rosary Classical School currently has 145 students, ranging from 4 years old to 11th grade. By next year, the school will offer full K-12 education.
In April, the parish initiated a Novena to Our Lady of Good Counsel for the intention that families across the country, who desire an authentic Catholic education and culture for their children, will discover Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church and School and decide in faith to relocate and join their community.
Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
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