Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 5, 1989
1988 Was Historic For Archdiocese, Pro-Life
By Rita McInerney
As bishop and Church we have been called by God to walk together through the final years of the 20th century. (From Archbishop Eugene A. Marinos installation homily May 5, 1988)
The pace of Archbishop Marinos first eight months as shepherd was much faster than a walk. In fact, it could be said he started out running and was just beginning to slow his stride as the year ended.
Although he was Atlantas newest celebrity, pastoral responsibilities were his primary concern. Ecumenical invitations and media interviews were squeezed into an awesome round of parish visitations, confirmations, meetings with priests and Religious.
But this was several months in the future when, as auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C., he made his first visit to Atlanta on Jan. 16-17, 1988. He came then as celebrant and homilist for the fifth annual Mass honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
There was curiosity among several hundred people filling the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Atlanta for this Liturgy sponsored each year by the Office for Black Catholics and the Commission for Black Catholic Concerns.
After the Mass and reception there was a lot of hope that Bishop Marino, a Josephite priest who grew up in segregated Biloxi, Miss., would be waiting for word of a new shepherd. Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan had died Oct. 15 after almost 30 years as leader of Catholics in North Georgia. Rumors were rife everywhere and one of the most persistent was that a black bishop would be appointed here.
The King Mass offered the congregation a glimpse of the man who was to play a big role in the future of Catholics here. In an interview with The Georgia Bulletin he spoke of his duties in Washington where his region included most of the District of Columbia, and two-thirds of Prince Georges County, an area both suburban and rural in Maryland.
Answering a question as to whether the Church is doing enough to break down bigotry among Catholics he said, The Church always can do more. Its a matter of recognizing what people feel is significant. Most of the pastors feel they are doing enough How do we address the underlying effects in ways to move people in mind and heart? We have to develop programs to get people working together on what the Church is called to do in worship, education, social outreach and evangelization.
Within two months of his visit here, the waiting was over. Pope John Paul II had selected Bishop Marino as the third archbishop of Atlanta. Word came March 15 with the archbishop-designate flying in for a whirlwind day. After meeting the press he celebrated noon Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King. The attendance was much higher than usual, with the faithful from all over the city eager to welcome him. Before heading for the airport and the flight back to Washington he toured the Catholic Center. There was excitement, joy and hope everywhere.
Elated response to the announcement from all over the country made it obvious that the 700-seat cathedral would not accommodate the thousands who wanted to be part of the historic installation of the first black archbishop in the U.S. on May 5.
The cultural diversity the appointment symbolizes was a motif for the event held at the Atlanta Civic Center. The ceremony, termed both splendid and unique by Archbishop Pio Laghi, the popes representative in the United States, drew a colorful congregation of 4,600 people. Along with Catholics from the archdiocese, there were between 80 and 90 American cardinals and bishops, including his brother black bishops; ecumenical representatives, civic leaders and black priests, Religious and faithful from around the country.
Included in the Mass were spirituals, a Scripture reading in Spanish and an offertory procession by children in ethnic dress.
A week after his installation the new bishop dealt publicly with an inherited problem of great sensitivity. A priest from England, Father Anton Mowat serving at Corpus Christi parish in Stone Mountain, had been indicted April 4 by a DeKalb County grand jury for alleged child molestation. The priest returned to England before the grand jury action and has not been extradited to face the charges.
In a May 11 interview, the archbishop said he had begun a review process to determine the facts concerning allegations about the priests serving in the archdiocese and to clarify the response of the Church to such allegations.
He went on to say that his attitude would be to look toward guidelines developed by the U.S. Catholic Conference for approaching such cases. They include responding to civil requirements, removing the priest from active ministry, seeking a psychological evaluation for him and providing pastoral care for all concerned.
Seven months later, in early December, announcement was made that a set of guidelines to assist pastors, administrators, educators, heads of Catholic offices and departments had been drawn up and distributed at the request of the archbishop. The guidelines cover specific responses should allegations be madeon child abuse against priests, Religious, permanent or transitional deacons, lay employees or volunteers.
The archdiocese wishes to make it clear that the abuse of minors leading to physical injury, sexual molestation or sexual exploitation cannot be tolerated, the introduction to the five-page document stated. It went on to say that should any allegation of child abuse be made, the archdiocese will do everything in its power to effect healing for all the parities involved.
Confirmations, always one of the bishops happiest duties, began for the new Atlanta shepherd shortly after his installation. On May 15 he administered the sacrament of the Holy Spirit for the first time here, at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Decatur. By May 29 he had administered the sacrament in five parishes and at Christ Redeemer Mission in Dawsonville.
Events crowding the first three weeks of his leadership ranged from celebrating the 50th anniversary Mass at St. Marys Hospital in Athens, celebrating Liturgy with the sisters serving the archdiocese and then entertaining them at lunch at Marist School, meeting with diocesan educators and receiving the report on the schools commissioned by Archbishop Donnellan, and officiating at St. Pius X High School graduation and baccalaureate Mass.
Wherever the schedule took him, the new archbishop was pleased to meet his flock. Men, women and children, often in family groups, waited in long lines for a moment to shake his hand and ask his blessing.
June opened with Archbishop Marino attending an executive committee meeting of American and Canadian bishops in Montreal. The month ended with him in Rome to receive the pallium, symbol of his new office, in ceremonies at the Vatican.
Ninety pilgrims from the archdiocese traveled to Rome for the ceremony in St. Peters Square. The pallium, a narrow band of white wool that goes around the neck, is marked with six black crosses. It is conferred by the pope on archbishops who also serve as metropolitans of provinces to signify the sharing of responsibility with the pontiff.
The Roman holiday was a happy time for the Atlanta group, and a joyful experience for the archbishop. In sharing his journal with readers of The Georgia Bulletin, he mentioned his happiness at seeing his Atlanta flock patiently waiting for him outside St. Peters Basilica after the colorful ritual. It was twilight. The small group had been marshaled behind barricades by Vatican police eager to close the huge square for the night.
I bounded down the sloping steps, gleefully holding the pallium high, he wrote in the column. Sharing that moment was for me the high point of the trip.
Showing few signs of jet lag, the archbishop traveled to St. Peters in LaGrange on July 6. He had returned from Rome just the night before. In his homily, the archbishop admitted that it was the first time he had presided at the dedication of a new church. He expressed pleasure that the new building, contemporary Gothic in an octagon shape, was debt free. The $2.3 million complex received a $1,013,376 matching grant from the Fuller Callaway Foundation and the five-acre tract on which it was built was donated to the archdiocese by Milliken and Company.
A few days later, July 9, in sweltering heat, he presided at groundbreaking for the third personal care home for elderly in the archdiocese. The site in Riverdale is in St. Philip Benizi parish and near Clayton General Hospital. Several months later, on Oct. 2, he dedicated St. Thomas Manor in East Point, the second personal care home.
July brought two trips to the mountains. The first excursion was a visit to be with high-spirited young people attending the annual Christian Leadership Institute at a new resort near Dahlonega. A later weekend trip brought him together with friendly parishioners at St. Anthonys parish in Blue Ridge and Good Samaritan Mission in Elijay.
Later in July, Operation Rescue leaders and demonstrators arrived in Atlanta at the same time conventioneers came to the Democratic National Convention. The pro-life group would, in the months to come, slowly draw the attention of the nations electronic and print media, to Atlanta.
The rescues continued for several weeks with hundreds arrested, many remaining in jail because they would only give Baby Jane or John Dow as their names. After a September lull, Operation Rescue returned to Atlanta for a series of Respect Life week demonstrations beginning Oct. 4.
In advance of Oct. 4, Archbishop Marino issued a statement urging people to seriously consider participation in Operation Rescue at various levels - prayer support by legal picketing in support of rescuers, or by taking part in the rescues. Under the proper circumstances non-violent resistance offers a legitimate protest to the taking of innocent life, the statement said in part.
With the conclusion of the Marian Year, Archbishop Marino reflected on Marys unique role in salvation history at a closing ceremony Aug. 14 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Catholics need to reflect on the teenaged girl who found herself mysteriously pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her life should encourage all to turn to her in facing difficulties, he said.
The ending of the Marian Year should not suggest a lessening of our devotion, our commitment to the Mother of God, he said. Let Mary be the one who keeps us faithful to Jesus.
Two months later he reconsecrated the archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during the 17th annual Rosary Rally Oct. 9 at the cathedral. Several hundred people gathered on the lawn for the rally and processed afterward into the cathedral for the Mass celebrated by Archbishop Marino.
In his homily, he said Mary is the symbol of faith in a world that continues to crucify her son in the poor, the victims of injustice, in those whose lives are taken away, in particular those whose lives are taken away before they are born.
He addressed the outrage aroused by the Atlanta showing of the controversial film, The Last Temptation of Christ, as September began. He asked Catholics to join him in a silent demonstration of love and reverence for Jesus Christ by fasting on bread and water and praying on Sept. 2. He also invited attendance at an hour of Eucharistic adoration at the Cathedral of Christ the King that evening. In closing the letter, published in The Georgia Bulletin, he asked the blessing of Mary, the Mother of Christ, on the efforts.
Archbishop Marinos first Mass here in Spanish was celebrated for the feast of Our Lady of Charity, patron saint of Cuba, on Sept. 18 at the cathedral. He welcomed a brother bishop, Agustin Roman, auxiliary in Miami, and concelebrated with Father Edward Salazar, S.J., whom he had earlier appointed as Hispanic vicar for the archdiocese.
A few weeks after the celebration, the archbishop visited the intermediate house for 21 Cuban detainees formerly held in U.S. prisons.
He honored the memory of his predecessor, Archbishop Donnellan, with a tribute published in The Georgia Bulletin on Oct. 6. In the letter to the faithful, the archbishop, noting the first anniversary of his predecessors death on Oct. 15, 1987, mentioned his uncompromising dedication to the poor and those in need, and his zealous efforts in behalf of Catholic education and social services in reaching out to ever-growing number of people.
Catholics joined with Jews on Nov. 4 at a traditional service beginning the Jewish sabbath at The Temple on Peachtree St. Archbishop Marino, in his homily, expressed hope that the two communities would be able to pursue jointly works that build up our community and promote human dignity. His welcome by Temple members was especially warm at a reception following the service.
In a Nov. 21 interview with The Georgia Bulletin, the archbishop discussed his first six months as archbishop and looked ahead to 1989. In his visits, he said, he has been struck by the diversity of the parishes. All of our parishes have a unique, distinct and a kind of refreshing personality. I found no two parishes alike.
He said he felt he is beginning to develop a rhythm in working with Father Edward Dillon, pastor of Holy Spirit Church, selected to be his vicar general, Father Peter Ludden, chancellor, and Father Peter Dora, his administrative assistant.
Of the frequent Friday afternoon meetings with department heads he said he believes the meetings can underline for the staff people and administrators that what they are doing has a unique quality because it is done for the Church. It is his hope that the sessions, which begin with the afternoon prayer of the Church, help people to see themselves as members of a team and develop mutual interest in what others are doing.
As 1988 wound down, the archbishop ordained his first son as bishop of Atlanta. The new priest, Father Chris Williamson, became a priest of the archdiocese at a Eucharistic celebration at the Cathedral of Christ the King on Dec. 10. Father Williamson was appointed parochial vicar at All Saints in Dunwoody.
In his first Christmas message, Archbishop Marino wrote On my first Christmas with the Church of Atlanta it is my privilege to learn and to teach. I am learning from you the many lesson of Gods love as lived in this place and time, and as your spiritual father I hope to teach the same love channeled through my ministry to our family of faith.