GREENVILLE, S.C. — “Simply amazing” and “beautiful” — these are words that describe the wonderful new school that countless generous hearts in the Greenville community and beyond rallied to fashion for the students of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School. Generations of students spent 60 years with no library, art room or gymnasium in a building that accumulated 26 roof leaks, patched electrical repairs, and portable classrooms. Despite these conditions, St. Anthony of Padua School was successful in increasing the high school graduation rate for African American children from 40 percent to 94 percent.
On May 13, it was exciting to welcome St. Anthony of Padua School students into a state-of-the-art facility, a building matched in beauty only by the faces of the students who, with awe and wonder, walked through the halls considering what would be possible here. They have a bright future in a school complete with smart boards, a full-court gymnasium with maple hardwood floors, an art room, a music room that is triple sound-batted on all sides, and floor-to-ceiling windows that reveal the beauty surrounding the school.
Using Historic Items
Nearly everything from St. Francis Chapel in Providence, R.I., was moved to Greenville and now serves in the school’s new chapel. This includes the 19th century German stained glass windows that radiate glorious color and beauty. Other features of the school chapel include a replica of the circular Tiffany window of the Holy Spirit that is in St. Peter’s Basilica, a false center for a crucifix created by vaulting the ceiling with a long and short curve, and the deacon’s bench.
The school’s chapel was where Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, Pastor Patrick Tuttle, OFM, Principal Sr. Catherine Noecker, OSF, David Phan, OFM, and members of the St. Anthony of Padua community gathered for a prayer service and the blessing of the school. On April 29, Bishop Guglielmone blessed all the classrooms, offering the blessing of the diocese upon this Franciscan school. The bishop was deeply touched by the level of detail that went into building the new school, in particular, the amazing fundraising effort that allowed the school to be paid for before the doors were open. Bishop Guglielmone remarked that “the Franciscans have been a terrific presence here in the Diocese of Charleston.”
Moving in was an exciting time for students, staff, and St. Anthony of Padua parishioners and volunteers, who all worked together to make the first day in the new school possible. On the morning of May 13, students and teachers created a line as they prepared to enter their new school for the first time. The line started with the student with the least number of years at St. Anthony of Padua School and progressed forward to the student with the most years, a student who has attended school since pre-k. He is now finishing sixth grade and will graduate from St. Anthony of Padua in June.
The key to the new school was passed forward through the hands of each student and teacher in line to the front door and the school was ceremoniously opened. The pre-k through sixth grade classes and their teachers walked into their new school as the 1926 Meneely school bell, made in Troy, N.Y., rang out in joyous celebration of this first day.
Students and staff are starting to settle in to the routine of their new school but not without the daily amazement of their surroundings. They are learning in their new classrooms, eating lunch in their new cafeteria, running in their new gym, and watching as the shelves of their new library fill with books. New and used books have been donated by the community over the past two years to this new dedicated space, increasing the number of books from under 200 to more than 3,000 volumes. More new books will soon be purchased with a recent grant award from a local women’s foundation.
The Meneely school bell will continue to ring in the days at the new St. Anthony of Padua School. The students have enjoyed learning about the Angelus and have formed a guild that is responsible for ringing the bell three times a day — to begin the day, to signal noon Mass, and to end the day.
The last day of school for this academic year is June 5. Summer break will be fun, but the students will no doubt look forward to the first day of school in August when the school bell will ring again, and they will start the first full year in their new school.
— Susan Cinquemani is a member of the mission advancement team at St. Anthony of Padua School in Greenville, S.C.