ANDERSON - On a small podium in this chapel is a wallet-sized photo. A young black man looks out from the photo, smiling. It's a school picture. And it's lying to the left side of Father Aubrey McNeil's prayer book.
This is the father's personal chapel - the place where he goes to pray every day.
"That's Dory," McNeil said. "I met him in the Bronx. He'd been shot. He recovered, but he became bitter. His mother gave me his photo and asked me to pray for him. I have it here so I don't forget to pray for him."
McNeil doesn't forget. He knows Dory needs the help.
Even his dog, his constant companion, Jumper, was a lost soul. McNeil found him on the streets in the Bronx.
"I noticed him one day as I looked out of the window of the parish. He kept jumping up and looking in the window of the school across the street," he said. "Now, he's been with me for 11 years."
It's what he does, what he's lived his life for - to be the intercessor for the hurting, the poor, the needy and all of those in between.
For 30 years, he's been a Franciscan friar. He's been a priest for 25.
At 65 years old, he leads St. Mary's of the Angels Catholic Church in Anderson. But he's been all over the world, from here to the Bronx to the crime-plagued streets of Camden, N.J., and to Africa. He's been in jails, served meals at soup kitchens, given new socks and shoes to the homeless, and helped the dying find their Savior again.
On this day, he's already held daily Mass at 8 a.m. for 14 people. And he's preparing for a trip to the Perry Correctional Institution to visit state inmates.
"Going to Perry is like the frosting on the cake, because who can be more down and out than the inmate?" he said. "I am not there to convert them, but to show them that the Lord is with them, that He loves them."
As he leaves the sanctuary, he does not lock the front doors. "We are always open so people can come to pray," he said.
In all these years, nothing has gone missing. Once, a picture of Jesus was taken, but a man brought it back. "He told me, ‘We deal drugs, but we do not steal from the church,'" McNeil said.
Situated on a hill on White Street, the church is between the old Silver Brook Cemetery on one side and a row of mill houses - some lived in and others havens for drug use - on the other. Just weeks ago, on Palm Sunday, the serenity of this place was shattered by the sound of gunfire.
For McNeil, it is just where he should be.
It is where he's always been, in troubled places where there is work to be done.
He was born in Nova Scotia, the first son among four siblings. His father was a coal miner, a man who'd left school in the third grade so he could help his father take care of the horses they used in that dark underground.
After 19 years in the mines, his father moved the McNeil family to Boston.
"I remember living in apartments we paid $32 a month for," McNeil said. "If the man put it up, we moved. But nevertheless, we grew up with a Catholic education."
His father worked two jobs to make sure they went to Catholic schools. When McNeil was 13 and wanted to go to high-school seminary, his father paid for that, too. It was $300 a year - in the 1950s. "They managed to lift us up," he said.
That wasn't the only gift his father gave him. He also put that spirit of humility in him.
He watched his father work two jobs, only to come home and help everyone around him. He read books, taught himself electrical work and plumbing. He cut hair for the family, he repaired pipes, helped his cousin deliver ice and oil, he fixed broken lights - whatever was needed.
"He couldn't see someone suffer," McNeil said.
Neither can McNeil.
It's what led him to live the life of a friar. Even as a child, he never saw himself as anything else.
It's why he prays for Dory. It's why he saved Jumper. It's why his eyes light up with joy when he talks about reconciling a dying man with his God, or when he describes helping a patient with AIDS whose only hope is a healed spirit, or when he talks of sitting with a family as they absorb the news of their son's death.
"When we worked with AIDS patients in Uganda, they knew they weren't going to get any better," McNeil said. "But to hold them in that moment. ... You are not giving them hope for life, for a cure. All you can give is of yourself.
"You are there to say, ‘I am here to be your brother.'"