Franciscan Influences: Impact of Catholic Education

Mary Corner Features

This is the sixth in a series of essays by the friars’ partners-in-ministry. The last, published in the May 18 issue of this newsletter, was written by Ralph Perez. 

In this reflection, an employee and lifelong parishioner of the Province’s St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, S.C., describes her respect for the Franciscans’ strength and ideals, calling the parish “the little light that shines in the darkness” and the school “a jewel in the western end of Greenville” that deserves a new building.

I, Mary Corner, was born and am fortunate to have been baptized at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church. Little did I know, at the time, the effect that the sacrament of baptism and the fulfillment of being baptized in a church of Franciscan friars and sisters would have. Growing up in Greenville, during the confusing time of prejudice and segregation, there was a glimmer of hope. That glimmer was a Catholic school and church named St. Anthony of Padua, run by the Franciscans from New York.

The friars and sisters visited our homes, supplied families with food, clothing, furniture and toys and even took care of the African-American parishioners. They truly made the church feel spirited and warm. It was my second home, a place where I could attend plays and dances, and also participate on the softball team.

pim-rLearning Franciscan Values
While I attended St. Anthony’s School, the Franciscans instilled in us that we are all somebody and, by keeping God in the center of our lives, we could accomplish anything. During this time, the Franciscans taught us the importance of sharing and loving everyone as God loves you. Those words not only helped me during my life but shaped me into the woman I am today.

It is because of my upbringing that I believe it is so important for St. Anthony’s to build a new school. Together we must continue the legacy of providing students with an excellent Catholic education. St. Anthony’s not only educates the mind, but it builds the body and nurtures the soul, along with providing compassion and love for its students. In my day, it was known that if you went to St. Anthony’s, you would achieve. Today, that is still true. This school provides a strong foundation for achievement by stressing the importance of God, applying study skills and maintaining focus. I strongly believe that St. Anthony of Padua School is a jewel in the western end of Greenville, S.C., that deserves a new school building.

Doing God’s Work
As pastoral administrator, I serve as the pastor’s designee. My other responsibilities include recruiting, hiring and evaluating staff and volunteers, writing performance evaluations, completing safety audits, and reconciling budgets and financial records.

At St. Anthony’s, we have several ministries that illustrate the Franciscan values. They include the food pantry, Propel, housing, and a prison initiative. The food pantry provides non-perishable food bags, food boxes and financial assistance with bills. Propel is a high school ministry that is designed to help struggling public school students succeed academically, and they currently mentor seventh graders at Hughes Academy. The housing initiative rebuilds homes, maintains the characteristics of the neighborhood, and provides affordable housing within the community. The prison ministry spreads the good news of the love of Jesus Christ along with his promise of salvation to all who call upon His name.

If you ask any of our parishioners how they feel about the church, they say, “I feel I am doing God’s work” and “I feel I am finally at home.” With the strength and ideals of the Franciscans, this place is the little light that shines in the darkness.

— Mary Corner, a 1958 graduate of St. Anthony’s School, has worked for St. Anthony of Padua Parish since 2007, when she retired from her management position at Michelin Tire Corporation where she worked for 32 years. She has a son and five grandchldren who lie in California.

Editor’s note: The photo above shows Mary with St. Anthony’s pastor Patrick Tuttle, OFM. Behind that photo are two pictures taken during the author’s time as a student at St. Anthony’s School.