ANDERSON, S.C. — More than 70 years ago, the friars arrived in upstate South Carolina. A museum is now sharing their rich history with the community.
To celebrate the Franciscans and their contributions to the area, the Anderson County Museum has created an exhibit titled “Preaching to God’s Creatures: The Franciscans of Anderson County.”
Aubrey McNeil, OFM, Michael Jones, OFM, and Henry Fulmer, OFM, represented Anderson’s Catholic community at the museum’s Lunch & Learn on Jan. 26. A summary of what was shared about the “Franciscan Movement” was described on the ACM website: “One of the greatest gifts of Italy is Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, a key figure of the 12th century who still plays an important role in the world today. Better known as St. Francis of Assisi, he was instrumental in bringing an end to the Middle Ages and establishing a movement of vowed men and women who commit themselves to follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, living in chastity, without property, and in obedience. Pope Francis chose that name when he began his pontificate because he wanted to guide the church with the vision of St. Francis.
“Originally journeying from Assisi to Germany and then to New York, the friars arrived in Anderson in 1943. At the same time, they established a rule for men and women without vows who follow St. Francis’ simple way of living and who are part of the Anderson community today.”
The influence of the Order of Friars Minor spread into Anderson when Francis Gorman, OFM, arrived to serve the county’s African-American community in the early 1940s. He founded St. Mary of the Angels Church in 1944. At the time, Anderson was the largest city in the state lacking a church for African Americans, according to Peace and Good in America, a book about the history of Holy Name Province written by Joseph White.
More than seven decades later, the friars continue to serve at St. Mary’s, as well as at other nearby parishes: St. Joseph’s in Anderson, St. Anthony of Padua in Greenville and St. Andrew’s in Clemson.
At last month’s lunchtime presentation, “we described how we live and that we serve the marginalized,” said Henry. Robert Menard, OFM, campus minister at Clemson, S.C., University, also participated in the presentation.
“Today, both Catholic churches in Anderson are staffed by the friars, making Franciscan teachings an important influence on the Roman Catholic community in the area,” according to the parish bulletin of St. Andrew’s Parish in Clemson.
The exhibit, which opened Jan. 23, has been well received, according to Dustin Norris, the museum’s curator of collections.
The idea of featuring the Franciscans was selected to relate to an international festival about Italy that is being held in Anderson this year. “We realized that the Franciscans live in town and have been here for decades and because of their patron’s connection to Italy, so it was a good connection,” Norris said.
“Every Catholic church that people in our area use is run by Franciscans,” said Mary Koziar, a museum aide who researched details for the exhibit. “We’ve come to realize the many positive qualities of the friars. They are willing to work with every group. Years ago, back in the 1950s, Fr. Francis Gorman started a black baseball team. It existed at least 10 years,” she said, adding, “He was a genius.”
“We’ve brought attention to a story that otherwise would not have been told,” she said. “The exhibit is opening up the eyes of people to the contributions of the Franciscans in the area.”
The exhibit, which is free to visitors, is running through June. Among the items on display are friar habits, scenes of Italy, a statue of St. Francis and, according to Koziar, a rosary that belonged to the late Mychal Judge, OFM.
The Anderson County Museum’s Fred Whitten Gallery is located at 202 East Greenville St. in Anderson, and is open from Tuesday through Sunday. Information is available at 864-260-4737.
“We would love for people to know where the museum is and when it is open so more people will come to visit the exhibit,” said Koziar.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province
- “Anderson Parish Celebrates Pastor’s Anniversary” — Nov. 24, 2010, HNP Today
- “South Carolina Community Celebrates Friar’s Anniversary” — July 13, 2011, HNP Today
- “Dan McLellan Appointed Pastor of Upstate South Carolina Parish” — Oct. 24, 2012, HNP Today