By SHEILA OJENDYK
GREENVILLE — St. Anthony of Padua School celebrated its 50-year jubilee in grand style at the Fluor Center Aug. 4 with the theme “Keeping Hope Alive Since 1951.”
Special guests included Bishop Robert J. Baker; Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, vicar general; actor and St. Anthony alum Orlando Jones; Franciscan Sister Marian Rose Mansius, general minister of the Sisters of Saint Francis; and Franciscan Father David Hyman, former pastor of St. Anthony’s and now pastor of St. Mary of the Angels in Anderson.
The school was founded by the Franciscan Friars and parishioners at St. Anthony’s to serve African-American children of the parish as well as children from interested families in the neighborhood. The school first opened its doors on Sept. 8, 1951, in a renovated farm house.
The existing brick building was constructed in 1956 for the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school. The renovated farm house now serves as a convent for the Franciscan Sisters who run the school.
In 1968, St. Anthony’s allied with St. Mary’s and Our Lady of the Rosary to desegregate Greenville’s Catholic schools. For three years, all kindergarten and first-grade students in the three parishes attended St. Anthony’s. From second to eighth grade, all students attended either St. Mary’s or Our Lady of the Rosary.
The school now serves children in grades prekindergarten through fifth.
More than 300 parishioners and friends of the parish turned out in their finest. Emcee Stanley Toole, afternoon drive host and community affairs director of radio station JAMZ, kept the evening moving along smoothly. Toole kindly donated his time, and the radio station promoted the event to its listening audience.
Franciscan Father Paul Williams, pastor of St. Anthony’s, led the audience in the “classic” Catholic dinner blessing — which he said is the first things kids learn.
Francois and Gloria Bertin, St. Anthony parishioners and owners of Bagatelle Catering, donated all the food and service as a gift to the school. While everybody enjoyed dinner, a video was shown about the school.
Bishop Baker gave a brief talk about the accomplishments of St. Anthony’s and informed the audience that families from as far away as Anderson used to send their children to the school in the 1960s. He said, “The birthplace of our faith is in our families and in our culture,” before presenting Franciscan Sister Catherine Noecker, principal, with a book about ethnic ministries.
Bishop Baker then introduced Orlando Jones. Jones’ family still lives in the community and still attends St. Anthony’s.
Jones attended St. Anthony’s in the early 1970s and grew up in Greenville. Jones said he saw many people he grew up with at the jubilee and spoke fondly of once again seeing his kindergarten and third-grade teachers. He thinks of St. Anthony’s as a very integrated school that produces many solid citizens and college graduates.
Jones emphasized how honored he was to attend the jubilee and said he definitely wants to come to the 100-year celebration.
Father Williams also spoke briefly. “Have you ever wondered what heaven must be like? … the kingdom of heaven is like a banquet …. Catholics and Protestants have come together in God’s kingdom, and we are sharing in God’s banquet.” He urged the audience to remember the good times and hard times that brought everybody together.
Future jubilee events include a fund-raising walk through Reedy River Park on Oct. 6, a talent show at the school on Nov. 16, and a Christmas bazaar, also at the school on Dec. 7.