Greenville Parish Recognized with Humanitarian Award

Johann Cuervo In the Headlines

Patrick Tuttle and delegates from South Carolina’s NCAAP State Conference at the recent ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Patrick)

GREENVILLE, S.C. — This month was one of great celebration for the parishioners of St. Anthony of Padua as the church and school were recognized with the South Carolina NAACP Convention Humanitarian Award for the many opportunities it has provided to African-American people through housing, education, food, and medicine.

The award ceremony was held Oct. 12 during the community fellowship at Fuller Normal Industrial Institute in Greenville. According to an article published the next day in the Greenville News, Rev. J.M. Flemming, president of the Greenville Branch of the NAACP, applauded the church’s efforts at providing housing for the working poor, its community garden, and its “Servant Heart” program — an email group that prays for and helps underprivileged people — in a letter to St. Anthony’s Church informing them of the award.

“These programs and your church members focus on daily issues of life which help the poor to live quality lives,” said Fleming in his letter. “You also assist those in the community that are in transition and in need of transformation as well as volunteer with existing nonprofit agencies in the Greenville area. We are proud of your service to our community.”

“What an honor it was for our church to be recognized,” said Patrick Tuttle, OFM, pastor of St. Anthony’s parish. “About 20 of us took the bus over to the Fuller Normal Institute, an African-American think-tank in town and witnessed delegates from all over the state of South Carolina working hard as we entered to set an agenda for the coming year. As we arrived, people clapped and they asked us to go into the auditorium. There, we listened to several speeches until we and a graduate of St. Anthony School were both named humanitarians of the year for the state of South Carolina.

“It was wonderful to be with our people and to observe an alumnus of our school, Sean Dogan, stand with his people. Sean is the pastor of Long Branch Baptist Church. Of all the people we could have shared the award with, being one of our alumni was a wonderful experience. City Councilwoman Lillian Brock Fleming introduced our parish by listing the good works we do in feeding the poor dental care repairing and giving away cars tuition assistance and eviction relief.”

Patrick, pastor since 2006, said that among the ways that the parish has been able to help the Greenville community during the last year was by donating more than $500,000 to pay utility bills of the working poor, purchasing close to $400,000 worth of food for the hungry, and donating almost 8,000 bags of food and toiletry items, including more than 4,000 family food boxes.

“We have grown our stewardship a significant percentage of people’s incomes, but this is a response to God’s blessings to us in the first place,” said Patrick in the Greenville News article. “We do not have many full-time paid staff people. In fact, the parish has only seven but the school has 23.  All of the salaries are mission salaries so there’s a very small administrative piece of the pie chart.”

Founded as a parish for African-American Catholics by Joseph Michael McGrath, OFM, in 1939, St. Anthony of Padua has grown to more than 1,300 members today.

“I’m proud to be part of a church that has done so much to help people in the community,” said parishioner Ron Barnett. “We describe St. Anthony’s Parish as one that is welcoming all people to worship God in the genius of African American Catholic Spirituality. It’s a very culturally diverse church with people from all walks of life.”

In 1951, St. Anthony School was opened and staffed by four Sisters of St. Francis of Stella Niagara, N.Y. To accommodate a growing enrollment and congregation, a church-school building was completed in January 1957 under the leadership of Thomas Albert, OFM.

Nearly 60 years later, the community built a new, state-of-the-art facility to replace the well-worn structure, welcoming students on May 13, 2013. With a strong legacy in Catholic education, St. Anthony’s has increased the high school graduation rate for African-American children from 40 percent to 94 percent.

The parish, located on Gower Street, marked its 75th anniversary two years ago with a joyful liturgy, a banquet, and an evening of food, music, and dancing.

The NAACP celebrated more than 100 years as a civil rights organization this year. This was the first time the annual state-wide convention was held in Greenville.

— Johann Cuervo is a communications assistant in the Provincial Office.

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