ANDERSON—Two passions in Mary Koziar’s life — Catholicism and history — came together last summer, and she couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
In January, the Anderson County Museum opened an exhibition that traces the history of the Franciscan Order in the county, and halfway through a five-month run, it has been well received by Catholics and more than a few visitors from other faith traditions.
The idea for the exhibition grew out of a challenge from a local committee that hosts an International Festival every other January. Each year a different country is chosen for the festival, and this year Italy received the honor.
After discussing various ideas, the museum decided to feature the Catholic Church because of the obvious ties to Italy and, more importantly, its history in Anderson County and how the Franciscans continue to play a central role in that story.
“Both our priests at St. Andrew are Franciscans, and they told me about a group of Franciscans in Anderson,” Koziar said.
Koziar then contacted the friars at St. Mary of the Angels, the first Franciscan parish there, and with help from Franciscan Fathers Aubrey McNeil and Michael Patrick Jones, wrote up the history of the Anderson Franciscans currently displayed in the exhibit.
As an introduction to the order, Koziar also put together the story of St. Francis of Assisi, which is retold in the museum display along with historical and iconic images of him.
Part of the exhibition includes artwork, figurines, glasswork and religious items from Koziar’s personal collection. She refers to herself as a “military brat,” saying she and her family lived in Germany in the early to mid-2000s, and made trips to Italy.
“A lot of the Catholic things on display are mine,” she said.
One exception is a Franciscan crown that originally belonged to Father Mychal Judge, OFM. Father Judge was a chaplain with the New York City Fire Department and was one of the first responders to the World Trade Center that collapsed in the 2001 terrorist attack. He died after being struck in the head from falling debris as he was trying to assist attack victims.
According to the museum display, Father Judge’s body was the first recovered and identified by the medical examiner, making him “Victim 0001 of the attack.” The crown, displayed with a Franciscan habit at the museum, is now under the care of Father McNeil.
“It’s a story that I don’t think a lot of people in Anderson had heard,” she said.
The exhibit, “Preaching to God’s Creatures: The Franciscans of Anderson County,” continues through June 30.
The museum is located at 302 East Greenville St. Hours are Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Wednesday- Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.