RALEIGH, N.C. — The coordinator of administration and finance of St. Francis of Assisi Parish was recognized last week with the HNP Francis Medal for the Franciscan spirit she exhibited during her nearly 30 years of service. Steven Patti, OFM, pastor, presented the medal to Patricia Kowite on Oct. 27, her last day of work before retiring.
“She has a Franciscan soul,” Steven said. “Pat has a passion for the environment, for justice issues, and has always been supportive of the overall ministry of the friars here. She serves humbly and professionally, with a deep professional commitment to the parish. We will miss her on our staff after she retires but we are happy that she will continue to be involved in the parish.”
She has worked here since the late 1980s, and has worked with all four Franciscan pastors of the parish, beginning with David McBriar, OFM, and continuing with Daniel Kenna, OFM, Mark Reamer, OFM, and Steve.
“When I became pastor here two years ago, Mark Reamer told me that Pat is one of those staff members who is indispensable, and I have found that to be true,” said Steve. “Pat has worked in our finance department, has handled human resource issues, and has gone out of her way to be helpful to the friars. She has done a lot of behind-the-scenes things that have made our lives as friars easier.”
Kowite said she was surprised and pleased to receive the medal.
“I have worked at St. Francis of Assisi Parish for a mighty long time. On Thursday evening, when Steve Patti presented me with the medal, it was an absolute total shock,” she said.
“A few others in our parish have received this beautiful honor in the past,” she continued. “I have admired each of them and loved that they were held in such high esteem. Never, ever did I imagine that I would receive the same honor. I have worked with the Franciscans ever since David McBriar became our pastor more than 30 years ago, first as a volunteer and then as an employee. Many friars have come and gone since then. I loved working with each and every one of them. But I was doing my job. I didn’t see myself as serving in the same way those others have served. I’ve never thought that I deserve the Francis Medal. It just never entered my mind.”
Kowite continued, “The Franciscans I have served with have radically changed my life. In the 1967 movie To Sir, With Love, the title song includes the lyrics ‘You’ve taken me from crayons to perfume.’ The Franciscans have taken me from Vatican I all the way to Vatican III. I have matured in my faith and my understanding of how to serve my brothers and sisters, how to care for God’s creation, how to live a simpler life, how to envision a new church with the fresh air of the spirit flowing abundantly. Theologically, I have grown up while serving our faith community with all those guys in brown.”
“I am humbled beyond words,” said Kowite the day after the presentation, adding, “I am grateful. And I am very, very happy.”
The Holy Name Province Francis Medal was established in 1998 by then-Provincial Minister John Felice, OFM. Recipients are people who have displayed an uncommon contribution to the advancement of the ideals and values of St. Francis. In recent months, the medal has been presented by friars in Lima, Peru, Anderson, S.C., Pompton Lakes, N.J., and Loudonville, N.Y.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.