ANDERSON, S.C. – A group of longtime parishioners of St. Mary of the Angels Church was honored recently for their generosity and Franciscan spirit. Elevent members of the parish in northwest South Carolina each received the Holy Name Province Francis Medal from Mike Jones, OFM, the pastor. The presentations were made at Sunday Masses over the last few months.
“These faithful and loyal parishioners have generously given their time, talent and treasures. All of them have served or are serving in leadership roles in the parish and have been tremendously helpful to the friars,” Mike said.
“These people have all given so much not just to the church, but to our friar life. They all have the Franciscan charism, especially when it comes to helping the poor.” Mike added.
Established in 1998, the Francis Medal honors laypeople who advance and live the ideals and values of St. Francis of Assisi through their uncommon contributions and service.
Liana Smith, who serves on the liturgy committee and provides music at the 6 p.m. Mass, received the Francis Medal on Aug. 18. Mike described her as a “very social justice-minded” person with a “passion for protecting animals, the environment and immigrants.” He said she is always willing to volunteer if something is needed for the friary or parish.
Noe Araiza, who the pastor says has always provided the parish with unwavering leadership, was given the Francis Medal on Oct. 6 at the 12:30 p.m. Mass. “Years ago, he organized the youth group and still helps in organizing an annual soccer tournament,” said Mike, noting that Araiza, also committed to social justice issues, serves as an usher at Masses and is a member of the Parish Council and Spanish Council.
Francis Medal recipients John and Theresa Czmyr received the recognition at the 4 p.m. Mass on Oct. 5 for their untiring efforts in operating the parish food pantry, which distributes canned meats, fruits and vegetables, pasta, cereal, peanut butter and other non-perishable items every Tuesday morning.
“John and Terri spend countless hours organizing supplies and collecting food so we can assist those in need – whose numbers have increased over the years,” said Mike, who added, “Despite this taking much of their time, they have often asked what they can do for the friars.”
Czmyr was pictured with his wife in The Anthonian last year for his volunteer work at Clean Start, a program in Anderson affiliated with St. Mary of the Angels that provides shower facilities, laundering services, and mail to the homeless.
Richard and Pati Brosche received the Francis Medal on Oct. 6 at the 9:30 a.m. Mass. More than 10 years ago, the couple was part of the original group of parishioners from St. Mary of the Angels that launched the Clean Start program.
“Rich and Pati, along with several other parishioners, felt that they had to do more in living out their faith. So they helped identify a need in the community and worked to implement the plan,” Mike said.
Another couple, Anneliza and Russel Dennis – also longtime volunteers with the Clean Start program and active parish members – were awarded the Francis Medal at the 9:30 a.m. Mass on Oct. 6.
“They have spent many years serving the parish and the Franciscans,” said Mike. “Anne has been very helpful with her talents in the painting and decorating of the friary to make sure it looks perfect.”
Sadly, Russel Dennis died a little more than two weeks after receiving the medal.
Three members of the parish’s Spanish Council – Reina Izaguirre, Griselda Maners, and Gregoria Zapete Maya – received their Francis Medal on Oct. 6 at the 12:30 p.m. Mass. Mike lauded the trio for helping to bring together the English- and Spanish-speaking communities.
Izaguirre is involved in multiple ministries, including singing in the choir, lectoring at Mass, and serving on the Parish Council. “She is nearly indispensable and is always willing to help anyone in need,” Mike said.
Maners volunteers with several ministries and is especially known for her work on the parish Safe Environment Committee, according to Michael.
St. Mary of the Angels Parish was founded more than 75 years ago when Francis Gorman, OFM, arrived in the town located 30 miles southwest of Greenville, S.C. The church on White Street was established in March 1943 and was rebuilt in the early 1950s. A new church was dedicated in early 2008 and 10 years later, in fall 2018, the parish dedicated a canticle garden to the memory of Aubrey McNeil, OFM, the former pastor who died in 2017. A detailed history of the parish, with photos, can be found on its website.
– Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “Funeral Services Held for Aubrey McNeil” — Dec. 12, 2017, HNP Today
- “10 Years Later, Clean Start Volunteers Remain Dedicated” – Oct. 28, 2016, Independent Mail
- “Anderson Friars Present Two Francis Medals” — Sept. 30, 2016, HNP Today
- “Anderson Friars Present Francis Medal to ‘Generous’ Parishioner” – Aug. 27, 2015, HNP Today
- “S.C. Parish Contributes to Building for Clean Start Ministry” – May 6, 2009, HNP Today