ANDERSON, S.C. — Three parishioners of St. Mary of the Angels Parish were recognized recently with the HNP Francis Medal. Aubrey McNeil, OFM, pastor, honored Margaret Mack, Norene Smith and Annie Thompson for their service.
Mack and Thompson, two longtime parishioners, have worked “diligently in helping to build up and maintain the Black Catholic identity of the parish,” said Michael Jones, OFM, parochial vicar. “Both have served the community and the friars in many areas of parish life.”
Mack broke the color barrier in Anderson in the 1960’s as the first African-American teacher at TL Hanna High School, according to Aubrey. “In the face of open hostility and insults from the principal, who was not pleased to have a ‘colored’ on the staff, Margaret bravely, and in a Christian manner, held her ground,” noted Aubrey. “Margaret closed her long tenure at TL Hanna as chairperson of the English Department. At present, she is a member of the school board. In the City of Anderson in the Bible Belt, she has given great dignity to the terms ‘African American’ and ‘Catholic.’”
Smith has “taken care of the friars,” said Michael, assigned this summer to the parish. “Her kindness and compassion is truly a blessing to the friars, and to anyone in need.”
She is in charge of outreach for the parish. Through her, the ministry of a small Catholic church in a large Baptist area is widely known and greatly respected. As a volunteer, she manages Clean Start, the facility begun by St. Mary’s to provide basic hygiene for the homeless. “Norene often speaks at other Christian churches about Clean Start and the ministry with the homeless, giving a face to our Catholic faith,” Aubrey said. “Through her, many see that we take the Gospel seriously.”
The three recipients are members of St. Mary’s Parish Council and chair various committees. “Had they been around in the times of St. Paul, they would have been heads of local churches,” Aubrey said. “Because of them, our church is strong.”
The medals were presented on Oct. 5, during the parish’s weekend celebration of the feast of St. Francis. Since St. Mary of the Angels was established in 1943, 10 friars have served as pastor.
Holy Name Province’s Francis Medal was established in 1998 by then-Provincial Minister John Felice, OFM. Recipients are people who have displayed an uncommon contribution to the advancement of the ideals and values of St. Francis.
Earlier this year, friars presented the medal to partners-in-ministry in Raleigh, N.C., and Newark, N.J.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province