Wednesday, November 27, 2013
The Most Reverend David B. Thompson, retired Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, died over the weekend. He was 90 years old. Bishop Thompson served as the eleventh bishop from 1990-1999. Plans for his funeral have not yet been determined.
Bishop Thompson was born May 29, 1923, in Philadelphia, Penn., one of three children of the late David B. and Catharine A. (McLaughlin) Thompson. In September 1941, he began studies for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Penn. There, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Arts degree in history. He was ordained a priest in the Philadelphia Cathedral Basilica of Saint Peter & Paul on May 27, 1950, by the late Bishop J. Carroll McCormick, then the Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia.
As a young priest, Bishop Thompson served as an associate pastor at Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Philadelphia, Penn., earned his Cannon Law Degree at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and taught at St. Thomas More High School in Philadelphia, Penn. In 1957, he was named the founding principal of Notre Dame High School in Easton, Penn., where he served for four years.
On January 28, 1961, Pope John XXIII created the Diocese of Allentown. The Pontiff named The Most Reverend Joseph McShea as the founding Bishop of Allentown. One of Bishop McShea’s first official acts was to name then Father Thompson the first chancellor of the new diocese, and shortly afterwards, its first secretary to the Diocesan Consultors, and first Assistant Judicial Vicar to the Diocesan Tribunal. On March 17, 1963, Pope John XXIII named Father Thompson a Domestic Prelate to His Holiness; the honor bears the title of Monsignor. Bishop McShea appointed Monsignor Thompson as his Vicar General on October 11, 1966. He was reappointed Vicar General March 21, 1983, by Bishop Thomas Welsh, the successor to Bishop McShea. He served in that capacity for 22 years.
On April 22, 1989, Pope John Paul II appointed Monsignor Thompson as Coadjutor Bishop of Charleston, with right of succession. Bishop Thompson’s ordination took place on May 24, 1989, at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, with Archbishop Pio Laghi, Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States, as ordaining prelate. Upon the retirement of Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler on Feb. 22, 1990, Bishop Thompson became the eleventh Bishop of Charleston.
During his nine years as shepherd of South Carolina, Bishop Thompson travelled thousands of miles to visit every parish and mission in his diocese, which encompasses the entire state of South Carolina. He was known for his stance against the Confederate flag over the Statehouse, gambling, abortion and the death penalty. On Dec. 8, 1992, Bishop Thompson wrote a pastoral letter, “Our Heritage - Our
Hope”, convoking the Synod of Charleston, the first official gathering of clergy and laity in the diocese since 1956. Work on the synod began in 1990, and the process culminated with a third session and celebratory closing in January 1995.
Under his leadership, the Diocese of Charleston sponsored the Palmetto Project Community Relations Forum, a community effort to erase racism through friendship. The Bishop was awarded the Tree of Life Award, the Jewish National Fund’s highest honor, for his efforts on behalf of interfaith harmony. He also received the Order of the Palmetto award, considered the highest civilian honor in South Carolina.
Bishop Thompson retired July 13, 1999, at the age of 76. In his retirement he was an avid golfer and continued to serve the diocese as called. He continued to celebrate Confirmations, served in weekend ministry at Christ Our King Catholic Church in Mount Pleasant, served as a judge on the diocesan Office of Tribunal, offered days of recollection and retreats, and gave talks to religious groups.