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Priest dies after serving at Oratory for more than 50 years

Rev. William Pentis, longtime priest at St. Anne's Catholic Church in Rock Hill, died at The Oratory of St. Philip Neri Saturday.

He was 79.

Pentis, originally from Brookefield, Ill., spent more than 50 years at the Oratory and serving the community.

"He was a very dedicated priest. He worked hard," said fellow Oratorian Brother David Boone. "Father William was a very spiritual person; a very prayerful person. I think you could say he was a very kind and a humble man."

He spent many years active in senior citizen work as the spiritual moderator of the South Carolina Council of Catholic Women, and founded the Oratory Religion Camp for boys and girls more than 40 years ago. Pentis was great with children and looked forward to summer camp each year, Boone said.

Pentis came to The Oratory in 1959. Before spending two decades as priest at St. Anne's, Pentis spent four years teaching third and fourth grades at St. Anne Catholic School during the time of integration, seven years as the priest at Divine Saviour in York, six years at St. Catherine in Lancaster and three years with team ministry in Rock Hill.

"He was very dedicated to The Oratory and to his assignments. He did the best he could for every assignment," Boone said.

Pentis, who went to St. Anne's in 1983, led the church during a time of growth, said Rock Hill resident Ed FitzGerald.

"It was a difficult time when we didn't have a church. We were worshiping at The Oratory church, and we moved to holding mass in the auditorium at the school," he said. "Father Pentis was set on moving forward with building a church. He was set on getting it done the proper way and uniting the church."

Under Pentis' leadership, parishioners moved to a new church in 1992 and students attended the new school on the same property in 1998.

"He was a great guy. He was a real human being," FitzGerald said. "He was concerned about humanity; concerned about making sure the church was managed properly. He was a stickler on keeping the facility neat and tidy."

He said Pentis related to parishioners through his sermons.

"He was a pretty good homilist. He related to how we see the church in today's world," FitzGerald said. "He'll be deeply missed."

After his retirement from St. Anne's in 2004, he continued to minister on a fill-in basis around the area.

"It still amazes me how God in his goodness had prepared me to do priestly work in an area of so few Catholics after having come from such a Catholic center as Chicago," Pentis wrote in his autobiography on The Oratory website.

"In all of my activities, my Oratorian community has supported and encouraged me. We are family. Tears come to my eyes when I recall the love I experienced from the people in my various ministries over the years. It has been the dedicated, hard-working people where I have ministered that made it all possible. Truly God is good and in His goodness has brought about the mystery of how I got from Brookfield, Ill., to Rock Hill, S.C."