The final two stops of our trip were places that already had a place in my heart: Greenville, the place where my vocation was born in college, and Triangle, the place where I lived and ministered last summer. After our trip to Macon, I advised them both that it was going to take a lot to woo us after such a great experience…
But c’mon. Was there ever a doubt!?
We arrived in Greenville late Wednesday night and so began our tour the following morning with mass as the Poor Clare Monastery in Traveler’s Rest, SC, about 30 minutes north of Greenville. An often overlooked aspect of our charism, I think it’s a great gift that we have multiple Orders within the Franciscan tradition and it’s a great thing to support one another. From there, it was back to St. Anthony of Padua Catholic church and school for a tour of what is hands down the most beautiful elementary school every built. Seriously though. Floor to ceiling windows, original art, signature carpet to match it’s tagline “weaving a brighter future,” amazing gymnasium with cushioned supports under the floor and multimedia hookups, a roof garden, private playground for kindergarten, and a chapel fitted with stain glass windows and a replica of Bernini’s Window from St. Peter’s Basilica. Oh, and the best part? This mostly African-American school graduates students from high school at a rate of 98% whereas the rest of the city has graduated African-Americans at a rate between 35-50% over the past decade. That’s ministry right there.
After the tour, we got a quick lunch at the house and it was up to Furman University, my alma mater, for a walk around campus where we unexpectedly ran into a few Catholic Campus Ministry students who were happy to tell us about the organization. The following day we had the privilege of seeing the site of the new Vietnamese mission being run by one of our friars, the only Vietnamese-speaking priest in the whole diocese. It was a drop in the bucket of what goes on in Greenville, but what a visit!
With nothing left to see until Triangle, and Triangle being seven hours away from Greenville without stops or traffic, we decided to take our time, take a scenic route through Asheville, NC, and spend the night in Raleigh once more. It was a nice break in the fast-paced movement of our trip, and also nice not to be “on” for a day, being shown around and meeting lots of new people.
Come Saturday, though, we packed everything up for the last time and made our way up 95 to Triangle, VA. At this point, I have to admit, we were all incredibly tired and were in no mood for another tour, big dinner, or programming of any sort. All we wanted a low-key, easy-going time. This is difficult to come by at St. Francis. We got there just in time for mass, and despite being a Saturday vigil mass, it was full and lively. Standing outside of the church before and after mass, I was amazed at how many people came up and introduced themselves to Abraham and Dennis and welcomed them to the parish with such kind words. But really, I shouldn’t have been. The people of this parish are hands down the nicest people I have ever met (and I say that knowing that people from Greenville, Raleigh, Durham, and Silver Spring read this blog!) For all the things that they do at this parish—and they do a lot—their best quality is by far their hospitality. After a home-cooked meal with the friars that night, we came back the next morning to greet people at three masses and attend one, and it was the same story: people came up to all three of us, gave introduced themselves, gave us hugs, and made us feel right at home.
And really, what a perfect way to end the trip. All told, we traveled more than 1500 miles, stayed in five different houses, went to eight different ministry sites, and spent time with twenty different friars—a test for any introvert, I assure you—and yet there was a sense we were “home” all along. In every friary we went, whenever we asked for something to drink or to use something in the house, the response was always the same: “Of course. It’s your home too.” The same was even true for the ministry sites with the people we served: there was a familiarity of style and purpose, a common vision that we all knew and lived, and people treated us like they had known us for years. How could we travel so far, meet people so new and different, and yet feel right at home? I guess all I can say is that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the friars and with the people we share our lives. It’s great to know that, no matter where I go and whoever I meet throughout this life, there will always be a home away from home waiting for me with the friars and people of God!