Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 7, 1993
Friends Share Memories At 'Home-Going Vigil'
By Thea Jarvis
Confronting the death of James Patterson Lyke, his brother priest and close friend, Father Donald Clark said he was just like Mary and Martha when they hear their little brother Lazarus was sick unto death.
I cried and I cried. I cried all night long. My soul just could not be contented, Father Clark told the congregation at an African-American vigil service for Archbishop Lyke Dec. 30.
Fellow mourners, who packed Christ the King Cathedral as dense evening fog clouded Atlanta streets, included cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, friends and family of the archbishop who had converged on the city from all over the U.S.
The service, described by one participant as a home-going vigil, was rich in African-American song and spiritual tradition, full of somber emotion and steadfast faith.
Choirs from Sts. Peter and Paul, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Anthonys provided a musical backdrop of bittersweet African-American spirituals, with interludes by soloists who led congregational singing and responses.
Marjorie Gabriel-Burrow and Rawn Harbor, Collaborators with Archbishop Lyke on the Lead Me, Guide Me African-American hymnal for Catholic worship assisted with the music.
Bishop Joseph Francis, auxiliary bishop of Newark, N.J., presided at the vigil. Fathers Edward Branch, Franklin Forts, Paul Marshall and Rothell Price were masters of ceremony. Deacon Albert Mitchell assisted at the altar.
Father Edward Braxton, Sister Francesca Thompson, Father Donald Sterling and Ms. Tejan Muata were readers for the service. Deacon Stephan Brown, SVD proclaimed the Gospel.
Father Clark, pastor of St. Augustine and St. Monica Church in Detroit and homilist at the vigil, said he was four years older than Archbishop Lyke, 53, and felt he should have died before the archbishop. But the length of days, the number of years before God is irrelevant as long as ones work is completed.
The archbishop was always working, he said. You could tell him, Sit down and rest, Lets go out and eat, or Cant we do this later? but the response was always the same, No, it must be done now.
When Father Clark visited Archbishop Lyke in early December, his friend was clearly suffering, he told the congregation. You could see etched on his face the pain he was enduring.
Because he loved the people of Atlanta he endured the pain, declining to be over medicated, in order to be conscious enough to work, Father Clark explained.
Sometimes, to endure pain for a noble work is an act of love, he said. The archbishop believed that undeserved suffering could be redemptive. He endured what he suffered as redemptive action on his part. How like the Lord he was!
Father Clarks homily was preceded by words of gentle reassurance and admonition chosen by Archbishop Lyke before his death. They included readings from Martin Luther King, Jr., Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II.
The Old Testament selection, from the Book of Wisdom, presented a powerful response to the sorrow and mystery of an untimely death: The virtuous man, though he die before his time, will find rest . He has sought to please God, so God has loved him He has been carried off so that evil may not warp his understanding or treachery seduce his soul.
The Gospel of Matthew reflected the promise of Jesus that you will find rest for your souls .my yoke is easy and my burden light.
Following intercessory prayer, Father Arthur Anderson, OFM, a member of Archbishop Lykes Chicago-St. Louis province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, read The Canticle of the Sun, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Other members of the province seated in the congregation joined him in the Ultima, the hymn to Mary traditionally sung by the Order of Friars Minor at the death of a brother.
Toward the end of the service, Father Edward Branch, campus minister at the Atlanta University Center, shared his memories of the archbishop.
He made it seem so ordinary to do the extraordinary, Father Branch said of his friend. Has ever there been one so extraordinary who felt so ordinary around us? But that is what it is to be holy.
He lightened the mood of the evening by recounting the archbishops administrative propensities. The only difference between his being sick and not sick was that he sent two letters, not three, each week to priests of the archdiocese.
His last letter carefully detailed the turn his illness was taking and what could be expected in the future. To save postage, said Father Branch, he included administrative mailings with the letter and advised his priests to cut budgets by 10 percent. His message was I may be down, but Im sure not out.
Father Branch, a close friend of the archbishop who succeeded him as campus minister at Grambling State University in Louisiana, said he became used to the archbishops frequent phone calls.
Branch? I want you to do something. Do you think you have time? the archbishop would ask. I dont think he expected me to say no, Father Branch said.
Archbishop Lyke has plenty of flash, much like Jesus at the Transfiguration, he told a congregation warming to the stories with laughter and applause. The best part was when he incensed the altar every corner, every edge!
Yet, after all this glory, It was just Jim, in whom people saw an example of selfless love. The archbishops message was the one Christ gave to his disciples after he had washed their feet, Father Branch said: Now, go and do in like manner. As I have done, so you must do also.
Bishop Francis offered closing remarks. Jim is my friend, he said simply. I was one of his mentors, but he became for me a mentor, a role model and an inspiration.
Bishop Francis said the archbishop was, for the Church in North Georgia, That spirit sent by God to be your Pentecost.
Jims pain is a source of resurrection for this archdiocese.