Magazine article Momentum

Sixty-Year-Old South Carolina School Gets a New Building Benefitting Its Tradition of Excellence

Magazine article Momentum

Sixty-Year-Old South Carolina School Gets a New Building Benefitting Its Tradition of Excellence

Article excerpt

Greenville's St. Anthony of Padua School builds a future on a strong legacy

The new building for St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School was dedicated May 2013 with a ceremonial passing of the front door key between students and faculty members. After prayers and further comments, the event concluded as the parish's iconic bell resonated across the inner city landscape as it has three times daily for decades. Franciscan Father Patrick Tuttle and Franciscan Sister Catherine Noecker still reflect on that day and the generosity of the many donors throughout Greenville, South Carolina, who had made the building program possible.

The Franciscan Order of Friars from Holy Name Province founded St. Anthony of Padua Parish in 1939 to serve the growing number of predominantly African American Catholics residing on the west side of Greenville. An elementary school followed in September 1951 in makeshift space until the forerunner of the new school was built in 1956. The mission of education and evangelization with the African American community remains a priority of the Friars and Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities who came to St. Anthony's Catholic School inl986. The enrollment has averaged about 100 students in Pre-K through sixth grade.

After 60 years, however, the main building suffered from deterioration. The roof leaked in 26 places; masonry was deteriorating; and there were plumbing, electrical, security and fire protection deficiencies. As enrollment increased, the school also needed more classrooms along with areas normally considered basic, such as a library, gymnasium, art and music rooms. Sister Catherine, the principal, worked from a trailer on the school's front lawn. St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School clearly needed a new building - and $5 million to build it.

By Their Deeds They Have Become Known

St. Anthony of Padua was the fourth assignment for both Father Patrick and Sister Catherine. They brought with them the contemplative personalities of most Franciscans and a tireless commitment to their mission. Upon arrival, the need for a new school already existed, but it rested on their shoulders to make it a reality.

In the years before launching the capital campaign for the new school, the Franciscan parish had earned admiration throughout Greenville for assistance programs that included distributing 250 bags and 30 family boxes of groceries weekly to the needy, eviction relief and help with overdue bills. Their Affordable Housing Initiative has acquired and rebuilt 10 homes for needy families and more are in the process.

That legacy of good deeds paid dividends as Father Patrick and Sister Catherine personally contacted potential donors. It led to long days because the diocese required half of the construction budget to be in hand or pledged before the project could start. Young and old, Catholic and Protestant, small businesses and major employers, philanthropies and others all opened their pockets to give to the cause. The prayers and footwork paved the way but the biggest boost came when an individual met Father Patrick one day in his office.

"'I've learned you have some concerns about reaching your goal,'" Father Patrick remembers the man saying. "And with that, he handed me a check for one million dollars."

There were many other notable donations, he emphasized. They included a high school's Spirit Week activities that raised $50,000. Three Baptist congregations, including one whose pastor had attended St. Anthony, contributed. Donations flowed from major corporations.

"It seemed like there was windfall after windfall after windfall," Father Patrick said. "God wanted this new school built."

A surprising $4.7 million had been reached within the 12 months before the groundbreaking in February 2012. By the day the front door key was passed during the dedication last spring, $6.2 million had been raised to cover the building program and three years of increased operating costs. …

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