Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 7, 1993
Tuesday Night Being Among His People Archbishop's Top Priority
By Rita McInerney
Catholics from around the archdiocese said their quiet farewells to Archbishop James P. Lyke, OFM, on Dec. 29 at an evening Liturgy in the Cathedral of Christ the King.
It was, in the words of Father Don Kenny, celebrant, a time to celebrate the living and the dying of the church leader given such a brief tenure in Atlanta.
On the altar, the canopied presiders chair was no longer a focus. Its recent occupant lay in state in a coffin by the altar, with two Knights of Peter Claver standing as honor guard. The archbishop wore his brown Franciscan robes, his cross bright on his chest and a scarlet zucchetto on his head.
Before Mass people moved quietly to the coffin, pausing and looking down in silent prayer on the once lively face now cast in the thin mold of death.
In his homily, Monsignor Edward Dillon, administrator, recalled the words the archbishop spoke at his installation, June 24, 1991: From this day I will call the archdiocese of Atlanta my home, and I have no reason to suppose that I will end my days anywhere else.
How true, how soon.
None of us, Monsignor Dillon continued, could have known that these words concealed a soon-to-be reality that the immense vitality of this man would soon be offered on a cross of mortal illness - that his final years of service would be an offering on behalf of this archdiocese, to ease the pain of past events, and to move us forward to a new and better time.
In his brief time in Atlanta, Monsignor Dillon said, the archbishop exemplified the words heard in the Gospel of the Mass as Jesus prays to his Father: To them I have revealed your name, and I will continue to reveal it so that your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them.
The homilist looked back on the archbishops life from the age of 10, fashioned and strengthened by his growing love for Gods church and by his service to that church.
Over 43 years, through childhood in his own parish, early years as a Franciscan pursuing the ideals of Francis of Assisi, as pastor and teacher, and finally as bishop, he was always a faithful steward of the mysteries of Christ, a faithful overseer and a faithful guardian.
When he preached, Monsignor Dillon said, his words were alive with the poetry of a man who loved prayer, who loved doctrine, who loved liturgy. His greatest regret and his greatest frustration as archbishop was that his administrative responsibilities prevented him from being personally present among his people as much as he wanted. That was his priority, and in spite of the press of his duties, he visited every church and mission and in doing so made every visit a special event, and won for himself friends wherever he went.
The homilist spoke of his generosity, his humor.
No matter how unpleasant, difficult or even rancorous the subject matter, he was always able to clothe the most intense arguments or debates with the warm cloak of friendship. He was the most valuable of friends the friend who would allow disagreement without losing his temper or his equanimity.
Concelebrating with Father Kenny were Fathers Louis Naughton, Pat Bishop, Tom Kenny, Henry Gracz and Monsignor Dillon. Deacon Greg Goolsby proclaimed the Gospel and Deacon Tim Hepburn assisted on the altar.
Members of the archbishops family took part in the Liturgy. His nephew, Andrew Lyke, Jr., was lector. Shirly Lyke, his sister-in-law, and Wendell Roberts, his cousin, presented the gifts.
Congregational singing was led by Bill Schreiner and accompanied at the cathedral organ by Timothy Wissler. Julie Holtan was soloist. After communion the organist softly played Amazing Grace and Sing Low, Sweet Chariot.
Several seminarians for the archdiocese led the processional, followed by ladies and knights of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, permanent deacons, priests of the archdiocese, and the celebrants.
The cathedral was filled for the Liturgy except for several reserved pews in the front section.
Sister Rosemary Wickham, OSF, pastoral assistant at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Blairsville, made the trip down from the mountains with Deacon Dan Bradach of St. Paul the Apostle Mission in Cleveland. She came out of fondness for the young Father Lyke she knew years ago in Chicago.
Newly ordained a Franciscan priest, he would visit seminary classmates assigned to Corpus Chriti parish in Chicago. She was principal of the parish school at that time. When he visited, Father Lyke always said Mass for the school children.
He was a marvelous example for the kids in the school, she said.
His classmates, both white, had traveled to Grambling, La., with Father Lyke in the summer of 1965, where the trio worked as student ministers and helped with voter registration. They encountered prejudice, were ejected from public places and threatened with bodily harm.
All three young priests, Sister Wickham said were determined to help the young blacks come into their own.
A young woman sitting in the front section, Letty Olivares of Corpus Christi parish in Stone Mountain, came to the Liturgy because she had met the archbishop during his visit to that parish. What she remembered was his warmth. You felt you knew him for years. You felt very comfortable with him, she volunteered.
A parishioner at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Eleanore Royal, hurried in to view the archbishop after Mass ended. She works for the Atlanta Police Department and was only able to get 20 minutes off to pay her respects.
On the steps of the cathdral, Sue Said and Jeannette Callahan rued the fact that we didnt know who we had in our midst. When Father John Ford, ST, a longtime and close friend of the archbishops, emerged from the cathdral and paused to speak to them, they agreed when he admitted being comforted by Monsignor Dillons remarks that the archbishops illness was both an offering to ease the pain of past events in the archdiocese and to move it forward to better times.
In the rectory, people expressed condolences to family members, who responded with loving references as to what he had been to them. Agnes Nolan spoke fondly of his celebration of the 25th wedding anniversary Liturgy for she and her husband, Sam, a Chicago cousin.
This was his special gift to them in the midst of his own installation events. The Nolans celebration was followed the very next day, June 24, 1991, by his installation as archbishop.