Local News Archive
Print Issue: September 20, 1984
Transfiguration: A New Church, New Growth, New Parish Family
By Michael ORourke
The people of Transfiguration Parish in Marietta realized a dream last Saturday evening as Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan dedicated their new church.
Four hundred parishioners and friends of the parish gathered outside the parish center, affectionately known as the tin tent, which had previously served as the church. The group proceeded to the new dwelling next door, singing hymns of Alleluia, all flanked by banner bearers holding 16-inch crosses of pipe with streamers of gold and rust waving in the breezy fall evening.
Upon arriving at the door of the new structure, Sharon Rhodes, vice president of the parish council, welcomed the Archbishop and guests. Father Henry Gracz, the pastor, and Jim Orsak, chairman of the building committee, then gave the building over to the Archbishop. After a blessing, the Archbishop called upon Father Gracz to open the doors.
All moved into the building singing hymns of praise and thanksgiving, clapping their hands as a people of joy. Once all were inside, the Archbishop, assisted by Deacon Forrest Briesch of the parish, blessed the water and sprinkled the people as a sign of repentance and a reminder of their baptism. He then sprinkled the walls and the altar to purify the environment.
Following this rite, the Covenant Presbyterian Church Hand Bell Choir played an instrumental Gloria which was splendid in celebration. This participation was extremely appropriate because in the parishs earlier years, Covenant Presbyterian had generously allowed Transfiguration to use its facilities.
The readings followed. Tom OBrien, a founding member of the parish and first president of the parish council, read from the book of Nehemiah describing the community aspect of worship.
Father Ray Horan, who is the founding pastor of Transfiguration, beginning in a storefront in 1977, was the homilist. He was introduced by Deacon Briesch who described him as a man of spiritual strength, joy and Irish humor.
Father Horan called it a moment in the life of the body of Christ, significant in that it is centered not on a place but on people with faith as a Catholic Christian community.
Father Horan recalled that at its beginnings Transfiguration was not even recognized as Catholic at all, operating out of a storefront. People asked, Catholic? Are you legitimate? Father Horan recalled, and even called the Chancery downtown to check. But the parish persevered and through strong faith, encountered the reality of Jesus and grew, he said, not only as building blocks, but as a community of faith.
Father Horan pointed out the centrality of the new altar table in the center of the church building in the middle of the community. And as eons ago the earth was our table and the light that dispelled the darkness was the sun, today we have a new table and a new Son, the Light, Jesus the Christ, he said.
Following the homily, Archbishop Donnellan anointed the altar with chrism, making it a symbol of Christ who is the anointed one. Then Father Horan, and Father Gracz anointed the walls where candles had been placed. This anointing signified that the building is given over entirely and perpetually to Christian worship. The Archbishop then burned incense on the altar as a sign that the prayers of the people rise up pleasing and acceptable, reaching the throne of God.
The people and the walls were then incensed as a symbol of the people of God, a living temple of prayer.
Members of the building committee and parish council brought the gifts forward. Following the concelebrated Mass, the archbishop dedicated the Blessed Sacrament Chapel as a place of private prayer.
The parishioners and friends of Transfiguration continued their celebration at a buffet dinner in the Parish Center. Those who contributed so much to the parish throughout the years were recognized for their efforts. All received rousing ovations, many from a standing audience.
The festive events of the evening marked the end of an era. It was the culmination of the work of a people, whose diligent effort to build a house of worship has been rewarded with a beautiful church that can be seen and appreciated by all who pass on Blackwell Road. More importantly, the dedication of the new Church of the Transfiguration marks not an end, but merely a continuation of the work of God in northeast Cobb County.