Local News Archive
Print Issue: May 2, 1968
St. Paul Of The Cross, A Parish That Destroys Myths
By Chris Eckl
St. Paul of the Cross plays an important role in destroying myths about the Negro and it delights Father Edward J. Banks, C.P., its pastor.
If you ask him about open housing, civil rights legislation and the much-publicized Negro revolution, the Passionist priest may take you on a tour of the neighborhood. He thinks the lives of his parishioners tell you more about the Negro than he can.
The parish theme song is that this place evidence of what the Negro can do if he is given the same opportunity as whites. Every man has got to have the chance to earn a living.
Father Banks said the lives of his parishioners help educate whites to the idea that change has come and you must accept it.
When people talk about riots, I ask them, What was your attitude 10 years ago?
However, in destroying myths about the Negro, a few myths have been created about the parish. Father Banks said St. Paul of the Cross has been pictured as a parish of wealthy Negroes.
He said this is not totally true. Many of our parishioners lived in projects when I came here 13 years ago, and were able to move out and up because they worked hard. They still work hard. Many of the women are school teachers and quite a few of the men hold down two jobs so they can educate their children and live decently. He said, however, there are well-to-do parishioners.
And he quickly points out that St. Paul of the Cross also serves residents of two housing projects, Bowen Homes and Perry Homes.
Father Richard Leary, C.P., has worked hard in serving the underprivileged. Father Richard has worked with retarded children in Bowen Homes and is in the process of establishing a medical clinic in Perry Homes. Two nuns from Holy Family Hospital will work there.
Father Banks is also proud of the parish school which serves many non-Catholics. We think our children get a good education and the school plays a vital role in the community even if it is de-facto segregated. He said the parish has one white member.
In his 13 years at St. Paul of the Cross and his almost 30 years as a priest, Father Banks said he has seen numerous changes.
He said the changes were slow at times, but added that past actions should not be judged by present conditions. One of my great experiences was a CYO meeting in 1957 when Negro and white boys and girls met together. Today its different and the action comes faster.
Father Banks discussed the closing of Drexel High School. Drexel was probably a good thing at the time it was built, but its closing and the integration of our other high schools has worked well. He also cited Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan for desegregating Catholic schools and hospitals.
Asked about his parishioners attitude on open housing, Father Banks replied, I dont know if it will affect them personally. Negroes came to this area so they would be free to develop. They developed this neighborhood and would like for it to be integrated, but if a white family moves out ... well ... they have pride in their neighborhood. One of Father Banks favorite expressions is the bond of faith. Asked what he meant by it, he explained it this way:
When Charlayne Hunter, a member of this parish, began her efforts to attend the University of Georgia, I heard some Catholics wonder why she was going to all that trouble. I told them, Shes one of my parishioners and I saw a change of attitude. Later they asked me how she was doing. Father Banks said he felt this bond of faith in the early days of meetings with the CYO, the Scouts, the Council of Catholic Men and the Council of Catholic Women. We didnt need any laws to bring them together, their faith did it. I can see a change in attitude and I think our faith has helped to bridge the gap between white and Negro. I hope the bond of faith will become much stronger.
The pastor also answered another question about open housing on a tour of many attractive neighborhoods. Tell me, he said, Is this a white or Negro neighborhood?
He said many persons who have visited St. Paul of the Cross tell him when they leave, Father, its been an education. This is the particular witness of St. Paul of the Cross, the pastor said.