Greenville Community Thanks Friars for 85+ Years

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

GREENVLLE, S.C. – It may go down as one of the most joyful farewells in the history of departures – as hundreds of parishioners, families, and students of St. Anthony of Padua Parish and school converged at a local ballpark to say thank you and farewell to their pastor Patrick Tuttle, OFM, and to the Franciscan friars of Holy Name Province, which is withdrawing from the ministry site as part of the Province’s Fraternal Ecology process. Greenville Mayor Knox White issued a proclamation declaring July 11 as “Franciscans of Holy Name Province Day.”

The people of Greenville thank Pat Tuttle for his ministry there — and the ministry of the friars who worked in the community in the past. (Photo courtesy of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church Facebook)

The crowd of more than 300 tuned out for the July 11 event at the minor league ballpark of the Greenville Drive, the Boston Red Sox affiliate, in the region of northwestern South Carolina known as The Upstate – an appropriate venue since Patrick has tossed ceremonial first pitches at the start of games. It was an evening of music, prayer, speeches, and poetry to honor Patrick for his 15 years of service to the parish – most of them as the pastor – and to acknowledge nearly nine decades of pastoral service by the Franciscans at the parish located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“I was blown away by everything that went on that evening,” said Patrick, adding that although he knew a celebratory event was being planned for the Saturday before his departure, he had no idea of its magnitude.

“It was a wonderful evening. We celebrated on the same day the Diocese of Charleston was founded 200 years ago,” Patrick said. “The celebration had everything – a nationally ranked poet, a nationally ranked dancer who called us to forgive past wrongs, an acknowledgment by the Black Baptist community in thanksgiving for the Franciscans educating Black children, and the proclamation by the mayor as a way of Greenville saluting the Province and the Franciscans for 86 years of serving the city.”

In between enjoying baseball stadium fare, the crowd was entertained by those sharing reflections about Patrick’s impact on the broader community – including ministers from several area churches. A fireworks display, described by Patrick as “long and impressive,” illuminated the night sky.

Mary Corner, parish administrator of St. Anthony of Padua and a member of one of the parish’s founding families, paid tribute to Patrick during the event.

“Fr. Patrick embodies what it means to be a Franciscan friar. He showed me by his actions how to look at the world and what I can do to help someone along the way. Not a second goes by that he is not helping someone in need,” said Corner, who presented Patrick with gifts that were dropped off at the parish office prior to the event.

“Because of the Franciscans, our journey has just begun. We know what we have to do to carry on the tradition. Fr. Patrick, you will never be forgotten for all that you’ve done. We were blessed for 15 years with your love and service,” she added to rousing applause, an indication that those in attendance – including community representatives such as veteran city council member Lillian Brock Fleming – were in agreement.

Commemorating Franciscan History
Corner, a 1958 graduate of St. Anthony’s School who has worked for the parish since 2007, also mentioned some of the many Franciscans who served in Greenville — including David Hyman, OFM, Paul Williams, OFM, Francis Gorman, OFM, and Sr. Catherine Noecker, OSF.

At the celebration, Corner announced that a bronze plaque would be mounted in the church in recognition of the 86 years of humble and loving service of the Franciscan friars of Holy Name Province.

Patrick accepted the city’s proclamation on behalf of all Franciscan friars who served at St. Anthony of Padua Parish and the Greenville community as far back as 1934 – the year that HNP and its friars arrived in Greenville specifically to serve Black Catholics. A summary of the Franciscans history was published in an Aug. 22, 2019 article in the Greenville News.

The evening’s program concluded with a video presentation in which more than 130 people described what they respected about Patrick, and what they will miss about their beloved pastor – and they thanked Patrick for what he has done for the parish, community and region.

Patrick said he feels honored to have served at St. Anthony Parish and noted that he has never had an assignment that felt so “hand-in-glove” as the one in Greenville.

Greenville issued a proclamation thanking the friars for their service. (Photo courtesy of Susan Cinquemani)

“The needs of the city, my gifts to give, and the desire for development were such a match,” said Patrick, who in February 2018 was recognized, along with the parishioners of St. Anthony, by The Urban League of The Upstate for their community and volunteer efforts.

As he recalled his time in Greenville, Patrick said, “The public-private partnerships built a state-of-the-art elementary school for Black children, built 14 homes for the working poor – with 26 more on the way – rebuilt the church, and created three new spaces for overflow crowds and adult education that we call St. Anthony University. More than 3,000 people have been educated using that model.”

He continued, “The site had elementary, secondary, university and adult education opportunities. The region has had three Catholic hospitals, the Monastery of St. Clare, police, fire and prison chaplaincy, as well as parish and ministry to an alienated and underserved population – the Black community.”

Through the years, the parish has been involved with many community projects and has had advisory roles with the mayor, city council, the City of Greenville Police Department, and Furman University, according to Patrick.

He is pleased that, over the course of his 15 years in Greenville, more than 14 people have become priests, brothers, and sisters, and that four laypeople entered full-time ministry as a career or vocation.

An Appropriate and Appreciated Farewell
The July 11 farewell celebration was appreciated by all participants because of the inability of community members to see their pastor in usual ways over the last four months.

“Because of the pandemic, many parishioners could not see Fr. Patrick,” said Susan Cinquemani, a longtime communications volunteer at the church and parish school who helped organize the farewell event. “It’s been very difficult to have Fr. Patrick leave during the pandemic crisis. It was a wonderful evening, given the circumstances – and a good way to pay tribute to the friars.”

At the farewell event, all attendees at the stadium had their temperatures taken, and wore masks and socially distanced to stay safe.

Patrick, who served as pastor of the parish since 2007, left St. Anthony’s on July 15, just a few days after the farewell event. His departure is part of the Province’s Fraternal Ecology initiative, through which the Province is withdrawing from nine ministry sites this year. The Province made the announcement in January that the friars would be withdrawing from Greenville, as well as from Anderson, South Carolina, roughly 30 miles away.

In 2014, St. Anthony of Padua Parish celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

Editor’s note: In 2011, Mary Corner wrote an essay for HNP Today’s Franciscan Influences series about the impact that attending St. Anthony School had on her.