St. Andrew campus ministry thrives as a home away from home

CLEMSON—St. Andrew Church and Clemson University spent an evening last month celebrating a relationship reaching back to the 1930s.

More than 200 parishioners, university administrators, and diocesan officials and invited guests shared a meal and looked back on an 80-year ministry that has helped fuel the growth of Catholicism in the Upstate.

It all started with the help of one family who wanted a more convenient place for their son to worship. Up until then, Clemson students and local residents attended Mass at a variety of locations, all based out of what was then St. Mary Mission in Greenville.

As stated in the parish history, the Gallivan family “donated the land, buildings and furnishings,” for a new church in Clemson.

The Gallivan family “wanted their son to have a permanent place to worship” at Clemson, said Franciscan Father Bob Menard, campus chaplain. “At the time, it was almost exclusively an outreach to the Clemson College Catholic community,” he said.

The Gothic-style chapel, which is still in use, was dedicated Dec. 8, 1935. It held 84 parishioners, though less than half that number attended the dedication. Father Menard said Bishop Emmet M. Walsh presided at the rite and said, “perhaps we have overbuilt.”

Miscellany/Terry Cregar
Miscellany/Terry Cregar

The ministry at Clemson grew slowly over the next 30 years, Father Menard said, with little or no growth in the number of Catholic students enrolled, according to university records.

“It was a small but significant outreach to the Clemson community,” he said.

But that began to change in the mid-60s under the Paulists, who came to Pickens and Oconee counties in the early 1940s. The campus ministry outreach of serving students, faculty and staff at secular colleges and universities was a good fit for the religious order.

As the area started attracting more families from other parts of the country, the Paulists built a larger church behind the chapel in the late 1970s, and about 15 years later another one was erected in nearby Seneca.

Darien Clark, associate campus minister at St. Andrew, said university students typically fill the current 250-seat church at the student Mass on Sunday evenings during the school year. A variety of student-led programs are offered by the Catholic Student Association, including small groups, Breaking Open the Word, Praise and Worship, Pillars of the Church and more.

Between 70 and 80 students also fill the social hall on Tuesday evenings for a free, home-cooked meal prepared by parishioners.

Clark explained the growth as a result of the area’s economic boom during the 1960s.

“The students we have here now may be from Greenville, Charleston, Columbia, Charlotte or Atlanta, but they’re the first generation to grow up in those cities,” Clark said. “Their families are from Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey,” with some of those families migrating south for jobs or to retire, he said.

Father Menard said it’s important to remember that in this progression of history, it started out 80 years ago as a campus ministry built around the needs of parents of who wanted their children’s Catholic faith “nurtured and protected” in an otherwise predominantly Protestant or secular environment.

“In other words, a home away from home,” he said, a phrase often repeated when students are asked about the ministry.

Miscellany/Terry Cregar: A new chapel will be built at Clemson in honor of the late Samuel J. Cadden, an active member of St. Andrew Church.
Miscellany/Terry Cregar: A new chapel will be built at Clemson in honor of the late Samuel J. Cadden, an active member of St. Andrew Church.

Erin Moran, a junior psychology major from Charlotte, said she got involved in the student group as a sophomore.

“I went through my freshman year and felt something was missing,” she said. “I went to a church, but not one I felt connected to.”

Moran joined a small group last year which led to her greater involvement.

“CSA is everything you could ask for,” she said. “It’s really nice to have a group of people who are always there for you.”

Brian Fitzgerald, a senior from Marietta, Ga., has been involved in CSA since his freshman year.

“I’ve learned more about my faith and what it means to be Catholic,” Fitzgerald said. “CSA has sort of ignited a fire under me to learn more about who I am and what I’ve been called to do.”

Staffing hasn’t changed with the growth of the ministry, though the St. Andrew group is one of only two in the diocese that have two full-time campus ministers. The other is the Newman Connection’s St. Thomas More Chapel at the University of South Carolina.

Father Menard is in his fifth year as campus chaplain at Clemson. Previously he served in a similar position at the University of Georgia. Clark was hired as associate campus minister in the summer of 2015.

The latest testament to the success of the St. Andrew outreach to Clemson is still ahead. Last summer, the parents of Samuel J. Cadden presented the school with a $1.5 million gift to help build a chapel on campus in honor of their son, who died in a car accident in 2015.

The chapel, which is to be built on undeveloped land between the Cooper Library and the Brooks Center, will be named in Cadden’s honor. Cadden was a rising junior at Clemson. He served on the finance council at St. Andrew’s and was active in the student association.


By Terry Cregar  |  Special to The Miscellany


Top photo by Terry Cregar/Miscellany