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Cecile Holmes, longtime religion reporter, dies at 67

A veteran religion reporter, editor, journalism professor and interfaith champion, she died in Columbia, South Carolina, Thursday (Sept. 29), after an illness.

Cecile Holmes. Photo by Denise McGill, via CecileHolmes.com

(RNS) — Cecile S. Holmes, a veteran religion reporter, editor, journalism professor and interfaith champion, died in Columbia, South Carolina, Thursday (Sept. 29), after an illness. She was 67.

Holmes was a longtime correspondent for Religion News Service and served as religion editor for The Houston Chronicle. She later taught journalism at the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Earlier in her career she was the religion and food reporter for the Greensboro, North Carolina, News and Record.

Holmes was dedicated to her craft and an inexhaustible source of cheer for her colleagues, friends, sources and students. She served as president of the Religion News Association from 1996-1998. In 2016, RNA awarded her with the William A. Reed Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Being a religion writer gave me deep respect for belief and belief systems,” she said upon receiving her award. “It taught me to never stop asking questions, to not be afraid to ask other reporters for help — so many guided me and encouraged me early on.”

Holmes traveled to Italy, Israel, Jordan and Mexico on reporting assignments, writing about popes as well as ordinary people of faith. She wrote two books, “Witnesses to the Horror: North Carolinians Remember the Holocaust,” and “Four Women, Three Faiths: Inspiring Spiritual Journeys.”

Her work strived to inform both people of faith and people of no faith.

She saw religion reporting as a calling and was dedicated to its survival.

“Cecile not only left a legacy of of excellent journalism, but she had the vision to move RNA toward professionalization in the mid 1990s,” said Debra L. Mason, former executive director of the Religion News Association. “Under her leadership, RNA hired its first executive director, which led to a period of growth and impact.”

Holmes was equally known for her kindness and generosity. She was inquisitive and made friends easily — even on crowded elevators.

“Cecile was a special light in the world,” said Kim Sue Lia Perkes, a friend and former journalist. “Her talent, humor, curiosity, effervescence, kindness and love are unparalleled.”

In her native Columbia, South Carolina, Holmes helped found Women of Many Faiths, an interfaith group. She was active at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral where she served on the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Work Group of the South Carolina Christian Action Council.

A few years ago she began studying for a Doctor of Ministry degree through the Graduate Theological Foundation in Indiana.

Holmes was diagnosed with cancer in 2020 and retired from teaching to focus on her health. Her husband, Jace Holloman, a freelance photographer, preceded her, dying in 2009.

A celebration of her life will be held at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 5, in Columbia. A location has yet to be determined. Donations in Holmes’ memory may be made to the Religion News Association, P.O. Box 370258, Brooklyn, N.Y., 11237.

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