ROCK HILL — If numbers are any indication of a ministry well served, then the 500 or so people who gathered to celebrate the career of Oratorian Father William Pentis are a testimony to his priesthood.
Father Pentis retired as pastor of St. Anne Church at the beginning of July after 21 years of service. He will continue his ministry at The Oratory.
The parish held a dinner and program at the church June 19. Father Pentis was honored during the evening by a long retinue of speakers who recounted his many years of ministry. One of those was Bishop Robert J. Baker, who authorized the renaming of the parish life center to the Father William Pentis Parish Life Center.
When asked to reflect on the priest’s career, Father John Giuliani, The Oratory provost, was generous in his praise.
“Father William is a very humble, focused man who didn’t give up easily,” he said. “He was able to unite the people of this parish and build a new church and a beautiful new school. He is a priest’s priest, and I admire him very much. I am happy that now we can say ‘Well done good and faithful servant,’ and he can enjoy his retirement.”
Retirement does not mean leaving his community. Father Pentis will serve as a supply priest, filling in at other parishes as needed. He plans to celebrate Mass at least once a day for a congregation. He will also continue in his role as moderator for the South Carolina Council of Catholic Women, a post he has held since 1986.
Father Pentis will be at the helm of The Oratory Religion Camp again this year at Kings Mountain State Park. He began the camp in 1970 and hopes to continue to be a presence with the 100 plus children who attend each year.
One unusual task the priest will take on in his retirement will be the maintenance of all of The Oratory’s automobiles. When asked about all this activity in retirement, he chuckled.
“I’m not saying goodbye but ‘see you around,’ ” he said. “The Oratory is home. One of the charisms of The Oratory is you stay in one place for life.”
Father William is originally from Brookfield, Ill. He began serving in York County when he was an Oratorian seminarian in 1959. He taught third and fourth grade at St. Anne School from 1960 until 1964, then attended Washington University for a year. He was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Charleston on May 7, 1966.
The new priest’s initial assignment was Divine Saviour in York, where he stayed until 1974 when he was transferred to St. Catherine in Lancaster until 1980. He took the helm at St. Anne in 1983.
“I came into St. Anne’s at the time the parish needed someone who was a patient listener,” he said. “We had so many wonderful people who were competent to build a church and then go on and build a new school and parish life center. They just needed someone to bring them together. The people made it all possible”
Among the highlights of the last 21 years was the establishment of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. When the new church was built in 1992, Father Pentis made sure a special side door with 24-hour access to the adoration chapel was built to facilitate adoration.
Full-time adoration — seven days a week, 24 hours a day — began on Nov. 26, 1995, the Feast of Christ the King. Adoration is now a cornerstone of parish life.
The celebration honoring him gave the priest a reflective moment.
“This day truly reflected the life of a priest,” he said. “I began the day with the funeral service for Brother Eugene Patenaude, then I went to Dot Lansky’s 80th birthday party, and I’m finishing up with a celebration of the end of my career at St. Anne’s and the beginning of a new phase of ministry at The Oratory of St. Philip Neri. And don’t say that I’m retiring. I’m not going anywhere until the Lord takes me.”