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Bishop David B. Thompson papers

Identifier: A-01-2001.050

Scope and Contents

This collection, a 1 July 2001 records transfer from the Office of the Bishop to the Diocesan Archives, contains the administrative records of Bishop David B. Thompson primarily during his tenure as coadjutor bishop of Charleston (1989-1991), Bishop of Charleston (1991-1998), and Administrator of the Diocese of Charleston (1998-1999).  However, a few record sub-series are biographical and partly document Bishop Thompson’s activities in the Diocese of Allentown.  Records in series 18 were part of records that were recovered from the second floor attic of the downtown Chancery building (119 Broad Street) and transferred to the archives for processing in February 2010.  These records contain administrative records of Bishop Thompson primarily during his tenure as bishop of Charleston and administrator of the Diocese of Charleston (1991-1999). The collection consists of the following eighteen (18) record series: Office of the Bishop, 1980-2000: Biographical materials, topical records, sample correspondence, photographs, and some diocesan-wide administrative reports, such as the quinquennial reports of Bishop Thompson’s ad limina visits to the Holy See. Institute for Parish Leadership Development, 1996-1999: Correspondence, reports, curricula, evaluations, news articles, and guidelines regarding the establishment and operation of the Institute, an "institute without walls" founded to develop leadership talents, gifts and skills in the Diocese's faith communities. The Institute emphasized prayer and worship, Christian formation, evangelization, social outreach, stewardship, community building and community administration. It was a mechanism for annual Synod implementation and planning and the coordinating body for preexisting programs such as the permanent diaconate, priest in-service education, and other continuing leadership programs. Advisory boards, 1970-1999: Minutes and correspondence of the Presbyteral Council, Pastoral Council, College of Consultors, Building and Renovation Commission, and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Board. Curia, 1990-1999: Minutes, along with limited correspondence, pertaining to the Bishop's Curia, or Cabinet, consisting of senior staff making major decisions on the operation of the diocese. Social ministry, 1975-1999: Correspondence and other documentation on hospital and healthcare issues, pro-life issues, family life ministries, Catholic Charities, and Hurricane Hugo relief efforts. Communications, 1984-1999: Records related to the operation of the diocesan newspaper – The Catholic Miscellany, formerly the New Catholic Miscellany, formerly the Catholic Banner – and the Office of Communication and Information. Stewardship and development, 1990-1999: Correspondence, reports, resource materials, parish guidelines, procedures manuals, meeting minutes, applications, consultant assessments, fund raising and marketing materials, and thank you and appeal letters written by the Bishop, all pertaining to the Diocese's major annual fund drive among its parishioners. It also includes applications with detailed financial information on the requesting bodies and other documents on how the collected funds are annually disbursed. Finance, 1989-1999: Minutes and correspondence of finance advisory committees; the operational records of the Finance Office and its subsidiaries including Human Resources, Computer Services, and Diocesan Cemeteries; loans, bequests, and gifts; and litigation correspondence. 1995 Synod of Charleston, 1958-1997: Records on the planning and implementation of the 1995 Synod (convention) which Bishop Thompson announced within days of arriving in the Diocese in 1989 and is likely considered one of his most laudable achievements. The purpose of the Synod was to help position the diocese for the 21st Century and stimulate faith renewal and planning. The theme "Our Heritage Our Hope" sought to shine light on the rich traditions of the diocese while looking ahead to the new millennium.  Includes correspondence, meeting minutes, committee participant lists, grassroots participation letters, agendas, meeting remarks by the bishop and others, resource files, planning documents, decision-making documents and implementation documents. Also includes the formally published documents generated by the Synod Chancery, 1964-1999: Topical files, a good portion of which include women and men religious. Christian Formation, 1989-1999: Records of education programs including catechesis, youth ministry, and parochial and secondary schools. Ecumenical Affairs, 1989-1999: Records of the dialogue between the Diocese of Charleston and different faith communities. Tribunal and Judicial Vicar, 1990-1999: Chiefly two types of records: correspondence between parishioners and the Bishop over a Tribunal action, such as a marriage annulment, and correspondence between the Bishop and Office of Judicial Vicar (or the Canonical Consultant) interpreting canons regarding laicization, sacramental marriages in non-sacred settings, etc Deaneries, 1982-1999: Correspondence and other documents relating to the selection of deans and operation of deaneries. Parishes, 1973-2001: Typically correspondence, financial records, annual reports, histories, bulletins, pastoral appointments, contracts and other paper documents related to the operation of specific parishes.  Often the records are relevant to building and renovation projects or financial matters. External organizations, 1989-1999: Documentation of Bishop Thompson’s relationship with extra-diocesan organizations including the Hibernian Society, Knights of Columbus, National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the like. Clergy, 1974-1999: Records of the permanent diaconate program, Eucharistic ministers, and programs of vocation, as well as correspondence and records related to seminarians and priests of the diocese. Transfer 2010: Materials consist of correspondence regarding the day to day operations of the Diocese of Charleston; various newspaper clippings and published articles, newsletters and pamphlets sent to Bishop Thompson; programs from various diocesan or parish events; diocesan policies and procedures; biographical materials one (1) transcript of a 1989 Oct. 11 Blessing of the Bells (no record of where the bells are located or where the ceremony took place); Apolistic Nunicature Annual Reports (1990-1997); a 1994-1995 biographical list of women religious in South Carolina; and two books.  These materials are arranged by subject at the folder level and chronologically at the item level.


  • created: 1958-2000
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1989-1999
  • Other: Date acquired: 07/01/2001


Conditions Governing Access

Access is restricted; consult repository for details.

Conditions Governing Use

The Diocese of Charleston makes no representation that it is the owner of any copyright or other literary property in the materials contained in its archives. In providing access to or permitting the reproduction of any such materials, the Diocese of Charleston does not assume any responsibility for determining the nature of any rights, ownership or interest therein; nor for obtaining the appropriate permissions to publish or use; nor for determining the nature of any liabilities (for defamation and invasion of privacy) that may arise from any publication or use. This rests entirely with the researcher.

Biographical or Historical Information

David B. Thompson, a Roman Catholic Bishop, was born in 1923 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to David B. Thompson and Catharine McLaughlin Thompson. He was one of three children, including a twin brother, Monsignor Edward J. Thompson. He attended St. Alice and St. Carthage parochial schools and graduated from West Catholic High School in 1941. In September of 1941, he began studies for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook, in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, where 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 Saints Peter and Paul on May 27, 1950, by Bishop J. Carroll McCormick. After his ordination, Thompson was assigned to Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Philadelphia as an assistant pastor pro tempore. In September 1950, he began postgraduate studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he earned a licentiate in canon law.  During the summers of 1951 and 1952, he served as an assistant pastor at Our Lady of Pompeii. In 1952, Thompson was appointed a professor at St. Thomas More High School in Philadelphia, where he taught for five years and also served as a guidance counselor. During that time, he took courses at Villanova University and served as an advocate on the archdiocesan tribunal. Thompson was named the founding principal of Notre Dame High School in Easton, Pennsylvania, in 1957, a position he held for four years. Responding to students' requests for a social outlet similar to “American Bandstand,” the priest started Notre Dame “Bandstand” on a Saturday in November 1957. In 1961, Pope John XXIII created the Diocese of Allentown, with Joseph McShea as the founding Bishop of Allentown. Bishop McShea appointed 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. Then, in 1963, Pope John XXIII named Thompson a Domestic Prelate to His Holiness, an honor which bears the title of Monsignor. Pope Paul VI elevated him to the rank of Prothonotary Apostolic in 1974. In early 1965, he became the first chairman of the diocesan Committee on Ecumenism and in 1966, a charter member to the Council of Priests. Bishop McShea appointed Thompson his Vicar General in 1966. He served as Vicar General for 22 years. In 1967, he was named the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church.  Two months later, Bishop McShea announced his intention to convoke a diocesan synod and appointed Thompson as Promotor of the Synod and Chairman of the Central Commission. He was named the pastor of the Allentown Cathedral Church of St. Catharine of Siena, in 1975, serving until 1989. Thompson served 26 years as the personal representative of the bishop of Allentown on the administrative board of the Pennsylvanian Catholic Conference in Harrisburg. For 18 years, he served as its vice president (1969-1987). In 1988, Thompson was awarded the de Sales Medal, the highest non-academic honor of the Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales. He had served as a trustee of the college since 1966, the chaplain to the Allentown Serra Club, and was a member of the first board of directors of the Allentown and Sacred Heart Hospital Center. Thompson was also a member of the Canon Law Society of America. In 1989, Pope John Paul II appointed Thompson as coadjutor bishop of Charleston, with right of succession. His 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. In 1990, Bishop Thompson became the 11th bishop of Charleston. During his nine years as bishop of Charleston, Thompson travelled thousands of miles in order to visit every parish and mission in his diocese, which encompasses the entire state of South Carolina. In 1992, Bishop Thompson wrote a pastoral letter, “Our Heritage - Our Hope”, convoking the Synod of Charleston, the first in the diocese since 1956. Work on the official gathering of laity and clergy began in 1990, and the process culminated with a third session and celebratory closing in January 1995. Under Bishop Thompson, the diocese sponsored the Palmetto Project Community Relations Forum, a community effort to erase racism through friendship. The bishop was awarded the Tree of Life Award by the Jewish National Fund, 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. The bishop was a member of the United States Catholic Conference's Education Committee and served for a year as chairman of its Sapientia Christiana Committee, dealing with colleges and universities under papal jurisdiction. He served a three-year term on the board of the Southeastern Pastoral Institute for Hispanic ministry. Bishop Thompson retired in 1999, at the age of 76. Throughout his retirement, he was an avid golfer and continued to serve the diocese. He celebrated Confirmations, served in weekend ministry at Christ Our King Church, in Mount Pleasant, served as a judge on the diocesan Office of Tribunal, offered days of recollection, hosted retreats, and gave talks to religious groups. Bishop Thompson died in 2013 at the age of 90.

Note written by


43.00 Linear Feet (87 document boxes; 32 slim boxes)

Language of Materials



Professional papers belonging to Bishop David B. Thompson, primarily during his tenure as coadjutor bishop of Charleston and bishop of Charleston.

Source of Acquisition

Received from Bishop David B. Thompson in July 2001.

Method of Acquisition

Records transfer.

Accruals and Additions

Records in series 18 were part of records that were recovered from the second floor attic of the downtown Chancery building (119 Broad Street) and transferred to the archives for processing in February 2010.

Separated Materials

Located in object box 1 and 2.

Processing Information

Processed by Jeanette Bergeron.

Inventory of the Bishop David B. Thompson papers
Jeanette Bergeron
Description rules
Other Unmapped
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston Archives Repository

114 Broad Street
Carriage House
Charleston SC 29401 US