He always described himself as a man of hope.
The Most Rev. David B. Thompson, retired bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, will be eulogized Wednesday at an 11 a.m. funeral Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of the Archdiocese of Atlanta will preside and Monsignor James A. Carter of Christ Our King Catholic Church in Mount Pleasant will deliver the homily.
“We in the Diocese of Charleston have lost a good friend, a holy priest and faithful bishop,” said Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, the diocese’s current bishop. “David Thompson was an inspiration, not only in his active life as priest and bishop, but also in his 16 years of retirement.”
On Tuesday, Solemn Vespers from the Office of the Dead will be sung in the cathedral at 120 Broad Street in Charleston at 6:30 p.m. with visitation to follow.
Thompson, who died Nov. 24 at 90, served as the 11th bishop of Charleston from 1989-99, distinguishing himself as a man unafraid to step on issues of the day, from the Confederate battle flag to capital punishment. Many credited Thompson with infusing a new spirit in the diocese and an enthusiasm for the Gospel and the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith. He was welcoming to Hispanic immigrants and saw the church as a refuge for newcomers to the state.
“I’m always a man of hope,” Thompson said in an interview with The State upon his retirement in 1999. “That’s one of the three theological virtues — faith, hope and charity. I always try to end my homilies with a note of hope. The Holy Father does that. My great ideal in preaching, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, he always left the people with hope.
“I have great hope because God is in charge of the world. He’s not going to see the world go to hell.”
Thompson grew up in West Philadelphia in an Irish Catholic neighborhood that emphasized home and church. He was educated in Catholic schools and, at 18, entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. He was ordained a priest in the Philadelphia Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter & Mary on May 27, 1950.
He taught at several Roman Catholic schools in Pennsylvania and as principal of Notre Dame High School in Easton, Pa., he was known as “Father Bandstand” because he was willing to bring in teen idols like Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon and Chubby Checker for Saturday night hops.
In 1961, he was named the first chancellor of the new Diocese of Allentown, and was elevated to vicar general of the diocese in 1966, serving in that capacity for 22 years.
Pope John Paul II appointed Thompson bishop of Charleston on April 22, 1989. He was 66, an age when many men might be considering slowing down. But those who served under him were astonished at his energy.
“Bishop Thompson was such a surprise to us,” Monsignor Leigh Lehocky, now retired from Columbia’s St. Peter’s Catholic Church, said in 1999. “A man already 66 when he came and we did not expect a new springtime in the church and that is what his administration has been.”
“What Bishop Thompson did that brought our diocese alive — he very quickly in his administration went out to all the priests and all the people and invited them to have a part in their church,” Lehocky said, “not only as participants, but to pick up roles of leadership, to seize hold of the spirit of the Second Vatican council, to seize hold of the Gospel and to be creative in how we organize ourselves as a church.”
Thompson will be buried on the cathedral grounds.