GREENVILLE – Friends and supporters of Catholic social ministries couldn’t get outdoors July 28 to sprinkle holy water on the site of their new center, but God took care of that.
Lightning flashed, thunder rumbled and rain fell in sheets minutes before nearly 100 people were to step onto the lawn next to the sanctuary at St. Anthony of Padua in Greenville’s West Side, the site of the new Gallivan Center for Catholic Social Ministry.
“God has already blessed the site,” said Sister Margie Hosch of the Sisters of St. Francis. She is coordinator for Catholic Charities of the Piedmont, one of several social relief agencies that will share the new 3,500-square-foot center with St. Anthony parish.
Dorothy Grillo, director of the Office of Social Minis- try for the Diocese of Charleston, said the center represents the vision of Hosch and others “nurtured by the Holy Spirit.”
The celebration marking the blessing of the site is the latest step in what’s been an 18-month journey for Catholic Charities. It started when changes at Greenville’s St. Mary Church forced Catholic Charities to look for a new home. The parish was remodeling the office building at the time and needed the space for its administration.
Catholic Charities moved to a temporary space in Green-ville provided by Symmes and Camile Culbertson, Greenville attorneys and St. Mary parishioners. They provided two offices for seven months at no charge, while Sister Hosch entered into talks with the diocese, St. Anthony and officials at St. Francis Hospital about possibly setting up a permanent home at St. Anthony.
Michael Doiron, vice president for mission services at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System and a parishioner at St. Anthony, said the marriage between Catholic Charities and the hospital system was obvious.
“Catholic Charities and Bon Secours St. Francis Health System are the two largest Catholic social agencies in the Upstate,” Doiron said. “So, we need to be working together.”
The relationship between St. Francis Hospital and St. Anthony dates back to the mid-1930s when Father Sydney F. Dean, a diocesan priest assigned to St. Mary Church in Greenville, was called to evangelize to the African-American housekeeping staff at St. Francis.
That effort led to formation of the St. Anthony of Padua Mission under the direction of the Franciscan friars.
In 1939, the Franciscans purchased land that is the current site of the church and parish school.
The new, $380,000 center is expected to be completed by next spring. It will house offices for Catholic Charities, St. Anthony Church, community ministries of Bon Secours, and Mercy Housing, which helps provide rental housing to the poor and works with other relief agencies in providing social counseling to those families.
Putting all of these groups under the same roof will also serve as a catalyst for the expansion of Catholic social services in the Piedmont Deanery.
“This is the first place in the Diocese where this is happening. In no other city or deanery is this collaborative style of service to the poor happening,” Hosch said. “For example, we’re trying to put together a project aimed at helping grandparents raise their grandchildren,” she said.
A forum on that effort will be held in the Upstate in September, she said.
Hosch and Doiron said they’re excited about the center’s location at St. Anthony, which sits in the heart of West Greenville, a low-income area with a large African-American population and targeted by the city for redevelopment. The center will be named after Harold Gallivan Jr., the father of a prominent Catholic family in Greenville and parishioners at St. Mary. A hall at that parish has been named in honor of the family.
Gallivan’s son, Gally, said the center will be a “catalyst for helping all of us do better in the business of serving God’s children.”
“Our church has a long history of serving our fellow man, especially the needy,” Gally Gallivan said. “But we can do more in the Upstate, and pulling those resources together is just wonderful.
“This is a center where things will happen, where things will get done,” he said.
Harold Gallivan Jr., a lifelong Green-ville resident, said he’s honored to see his family’s name on the new center.
“It’s a worthy cause,” said Gallivan, 80, who retired from the real estate and home mortgage businesses.
Catholic Charities provides family and individual counseling, adoption services, and social ministry networks for the parishes in the deanery and advocacy work. It also works in collaboration with other social relief agencies in the Upstate and offers a Catholic response to disaster relief.
Catholic Charities also received a grant to work with the elderly and the disabled on fair-housing issues, and with the area’s growing Hispanic population.
“We were able to hire one half-time person who is bilingual for that program,” Hosch said.
That program is only the start of what Hosch hopes will be many new social initiatives.
“Together, we can really create and begin to plan bigger programs than what we have the ability to do now,” she said.