By Moira McCormick
Special to The Miscellany
GREENVILLE— Mary Corner joined over 300 parishioners, students, parents, and neighbors on a small hill near St. Anthony of Padua Church and School for a groundbreaking ceremony Feb. 26.
After years of praying, planning, and fundraising, the parish family will build a new school, a $4.7 million project that has been years in the making. The school will transform from a five classroom 1956 building and trailer to a nine-classroom facility, complete with library, art room, chapel, indoor gym and assembly area.
“Our dream has come true,” Corner said. She is the church’s administrative assistant and a 1958 graduate of the school.
A dozen administrators, students, and priests posed with shovels before turning over the soil that parishioners used to plant two tree saplings.
“Thank you for showing me not that I was poor, but that I was important,” said the Rev. Sean Dougan, pastor of Long Branch Baptist Church.
He attended St. Anthony School as a child and spoke at the ceremony, addressing the socioeconomics of the neighborhood in which he grew up.
Franciscan Father Paul M. Williams, the master of ceremonies, called the new building a monument of faith for the community. Father Jay Scott Newman, the Piedmont dean and pastor of St. Mary Church in Greenville, read aloud Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone’s letter describing St. Anthony as a “closeknit family that derives its faith from its diversity.”
The crowd burst into applause when March Collins announced the news that the community and corporate partnerships, donations, and pledges of time and talent will pay for the project before its completion. His pastor, Franciscan Father Patrick Tuttle, stressed that these donors should not be named individually but rather simply know in their hearts that they are “friends of our children.”
Franciscans founded the elementary school in a farmhouse in 1951 to cater to the African-American neighborhood in western Greenville at a time when public schools were still segregated. The current brick and cinder block building was constructed in 1956 on Gower Street.
The school now enrolls 101 students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. The majority of the students are not Catholic, and come from low-income homes — nine out of ten qualify for free or reduced lunches, according to a program distributed at the event. It also stated that students graduate from high school at more than twice the rate of their peers.