The earliest memory I have of The Franciscan was when I was 5…maybe 6. She was standing in the doorway twirling a set of car keys on her slender fingers looking sooo cool to a little boy. Strawberry blonde, tall, thin, with her little brother Tommy standing behind her, eyes fastened on the keys. Uncle Tom would go on to become iconic for me in the Tao of cars, Lucky Strikes, boogie woogie, the aesthetic beauty in great design, motorcycles, and women. The Franciscan would always be a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Until now.
The last leg of The Lost Trip started with a visit to St Anthony of Padua School in Greenville, South Carolina – our Aunt Sister Catherine’s legacy to children, faith, and the unforgettable fire in her soul. Cath saved St Anthony’s from closure with a stubborn unwavering refusal to allow it. On the “eve of destruction” arose the drive to make St Anthony’s bigger, better, and more sustainable than before inspiring neighborhood renewal, uplifting architecture, and fine art. A sanctuary for kids to become…and become. Beware of stubborn women – you never know what might happen when they are present in your life.
The Pastoral World Above the Rim
As we walked the lot that afternoon capturing every angle, a woman approached us from within to find out what we were doing…wearing a smile on her face. Of course. When she found out who we were she shrieked with joy, gathered us all up, and pulled us inside to see Sister Catherine’s world and its fine citizens shaping the next generation. For the next couple hours we were toured, tutored, and introduced to each and every teacher, administrator, coach, and countless numbers of young children who possessed the remarkable demeanor of the child we all wanted to be. They are Catherine’s kids. And they’re proof that her vision was right. When we asked Coach why all the backboards where pointing at the ceiling he said simply it was the only way Sister Catherine knew how to play.
Now We Know
That afternoon solved the mystery of why a young woman suddenly dropped her car keys one day and left us all to join the Franciscans. People just didn’t do things like that. But she did…and we never knew why. Now we do.
Sister Catherine’s work in Puerto Rico and South Carolina devoted to the education of young children was a legend that updated itself over the course of our lives. But seeing the children, shaking their hands, walking through the school, and feeling the love was another level of knowing. St Anthony’s, the kids, the administrators, and the teachers will always be Cath’s. They adore her as if she was still there…and in a way she is.
St Anthony of Padua School in Greenville with Marie, Diane, & Dad August 17th 2016
Author Notes: Cath likes to say she had plenty of angels helping her with this project…people at the school said it was her tireless never-ending effort
St Anthony’s and Cath are living testaments to the power of vision
Cath is retired now but the people of St Anthony’s long for her to visit…I’d like to be there when that happens