Franciscan parishes focused on ministries as departure draws near

Each year, St. Anthony of Padua parish celebrates the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi with a pet blessing, led here by Father Patrick Tuttle.

GREENVILLE—The diocese’s Office of Priest Personnel board will gather in mid-April to consider priestly assignments, including the upcoming vacancies in two parishes in the Greenville Deanery currently led by Franciscan friars.

In January, the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province announced they are withdrawing from St. Anthony of Padua in Greenville and St. Mary of the Angels in Anderson, citing the challenges of a declining number of friars as the main reason for the move out of the Upstate. The province is also withdrawing friars from seven other mission sites across the country.

Jocelyn Thomas, communications director for the Franciscan-Holy Name Province, said the affected friars would receive their new assignments in June. 

Father Patrick Tuttle is pastor at St. Anthony of Padua, while Father Michael Jones is pastor at St. Mary of the Angels. Father Christopher Dunn serves as parochial vicar at St. Mary, and Father David Phan is parochial vicar at St. Anthony and vicar for Vietnamese ministry in the diocese. It’s possible he will remain in Greenville.

The Franciscans have been at St. Mary of the Angels since the early 1940s and at St. Anthony of Padua since 1938. 

Parishioners at both churches play meaningful roles in supporting and shaping their respective parishes, and also in the broader communities they serve. St. Mary provides outreach to the homeless, poor and marginalized through a food pantry, homework tutoring, Spanish-to-English classes, prison ministry at the Anderson City Jail, and Respect for Life.

At St. Anthony, Father Tuttle serves as chaplain to the parish school and Furman University. Over the past 15 years, he has helped the parish grow from around 200 registered families to more than 1,000. 

During that time, the parish has become a significant force in improving the lives of the poor and disenfranchised, many of whom live and work in Greenville’s West End community, home of St. Anthony parish and school. It’s a role parishioners cherish, and one Father Tuttle doesn’t want to lose.

“We have a meeting with the bishop coming up to offer him a sense of the community’s hopes,” Father Tuttle said. 

He said the parish has been doing “some good communication internally about who we are called to be in the West End of Greenville, continuing to respond to the Gospel, and serving particular needs of the city; namely, education, the ills of gentrification and banning predatory lending laws.”

The diocese has said it will continue the ministries at both St. Anthony of Padua and St. Mary of the Angels when the Franciscans depart, a vow echoed by parishioners and the broader community. 

A video was recently posted on the Greenville County United Way Facebook page recognizing St. Anthony of Padua School for its work in the county. It includes comments from Pastor Sean Dogan of Long Branch Baptist Church, a predominantly African-American church near Greenville’s West End. In the video, Dogan calls the work of the Franciscans “nothing short of amazing,” for the Catholic Church and the Greenville community.

“The impact the Franciscan Order has made is something that will never be forgotten,” Dogan said.

In the same video, Mary Corner, who works in the St. Anthony parish office, said she will miss Father Tuttle and the Franciscans when they leave in June, but their time there has planted a seed in her and the parish that will enable them to continue God’s work.

We will “make sure (people) have a place here to receive help whenever the help is needed,” Corner said. “That’s my charge.”