By DEIRDRE C. MAYS
CHARLESTON — The people of St. Patrick Parish gathered Sept. 11 for the dedication of a parish center and what will be a continuing tribute to a former pastor.
The Father Egbert J. Figaro Hall, located on King Street, will keep alive the charismatic legacy of the much-loved priest. Father Figaro was pastor of St. Patrick Church from 1978 to 1990. He died July 24 in Chicago.
Vertelle Amos Kenion, chairman of the parish hall governing committee, said it will be used for events such as meetings, wedding receptions, dances, banquets and a variety of other church functions. The hall will also be rented out to civic and community organizations.
“Space in Charleston is at a premium,” she said. “We are so pleased and excited we are in the new hall.”
The center is owned by the Diocese of Charleston. The old school building which housed the former Father Cleary Hall was sold.
Kenion said the naming of the parish center was put to vote during Masses and was overwhelmingly in favor of honoring their friend and spiritual leader.
“He was a wonderful person, innovative and industrious,” Kenion explained. “He wanted to see things completed. I can remember the cleaning of the pews, the painting of the church. He had the insight to go out into the community and tap people on the shoulder and say ‘this is what I need done,’ and he was able to get it completed.”
Members of the Figaro family traveled from New Jersey to attend the ceremony. His niece, Hilda Dubois, of Pleasantvale, N.J., said that she did not cry when her uncle passed away, but she did weep when she saw the parish hall.
“It is a magnificent testimony to the very wonderful man my uncle was,” she said.
Parishioners also had warm feelings to share about their former pastor. In a speech during the dedication, Judge Arthur C. McFarland, a lifetime member of the church, spoke eloquently and with great humor of the Holy Ghost priest.
“He was a servant of the people,” he said of the priest affectionately known as “The Fig.”
McFarland , who served on the hall committee, talked of Father Figaro as a provocateur of change and a born leader with unlimited energy for such a “pint-sized fellow.” He said that the priest helped the community in St. Patrick’s have a Mass centered around the African-American experience, his leadership helped refurbish and renovate the church. He reached out ecumenically.
“He was flamboyant, erudite, aggressive, a champion of the poor and downtrodden and a master of pomp and circumstance this servant of God,” proclaimed McFarland, his friend and parishioner.
The attendance of the Figaro family was particularly meaningful to Joan Mack, a parishioner and another member of the parish hall governing committee.
“Because he shared his family with us and the fact that they were there with us shortly after his death meant so much,” she said. “His family was adopted by the church and their presence was almost like bringing closure to a relationship that will last forever. He came back to us through his family at the dedication.”