Local News Archive
Print Issue: August 3, 1995
Shrine Hosts World of Welcome
By Thea Jarvis, Staff Writer
ATLANTA--Horn and bagpipe, banners and dancing marked the official beginning of local Catholic involvement in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
The World of Welcome kickoff was held July 23 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, whose proximity to Olympic venues and Underground Atlanta has made it a focal point for Olympic planning and activity.
Archbishop John F. Donoghue joined Shrine pastor Father John Adamski and rows of T-shirted volunteers from around the archdiocese to publicly embrace ideals of hospitality and brotherhood in a pre-Olympic gesture of Christian unity. An international festival of ethnic song and dance was held in the Shrine hall and adjacent Georgia Plaza Park following the prayer service.
All the faithful scattered throughout the world are in communion with each other, Shrine volunteer Flo Walsh proclaimed during the service, reading from Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
This character of universality...is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit.
The note of welcoming unity was echoed by Archbishop Donoghue, who described the upcoming Games as an opportunity to actually live the universality of Church.
Inviting Olympic visitors into Catholic homes and spaces of worship, offering them sacrament and liturgy, shelter and fellowship extends the care, concern and generosity of the biblical Good Samaritan, the archbishop said in his homily.
Quoting from St. Paul, he encouraged the Catholic community to treat everyone with equal kindness and to do all you can to live at peace with everyone.
As the world makes its way to Atlanta and its environs, the archbishop asked that Catholics remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Representatives from 15 parishes presented hand-crafted banners to the archbishop, who blessed them in preparation for their display at the Shrine, the community he dubbed a central outlet for the hospitality of the Church before and during the Olympics. The banners will be in place through the paralympic Games, which end August 27, 1996.
Adorned with words of welcome addressed to individual counties in their native language, the international banners hung gracefully from the churchs interior pillars as the last participants exited the prayer service into the bright afternoon sun.
In the spacious courtyard of balloon-filled Georgia Plaza Park, onlookers sampled refreshments while they enjoyed lively Mexican and Vietnamese folk dancing and song. Downstairs in the Shrine basement, food and drink were accompanied by Irish melodies, Argentine and Cuban dance and Aramaic choral singing.
The social hall also accommodated information tables where visitors learned of extensive Olympic and Paralympic volunteer opportunities.
Our location has focused the spotlight on us, explained Pat Gardella, the Shrines Olympic Welcoming Committee chair, but volunteers from other parishes are needed due to the expected Olympic demand.
During the Games, the Shrine will offer expanded hours and multilingual tours. As a designated building on the National Register of Historic places as well as a convenient worship space, the citys oldest Catholic Church should be brimming with visitors next summer.
Our (volunteer) requirements are very basic, said Ms. Gardella, expressing gratitude for even small blocks of time people could share. Volunteers need only live, breathe and know how to make their way to the Shrine.
Another avenue for those interested in extending hospitality to Olympic visitors is Atlanta HOST, which offers housing for families of Olympic athletes. So far, close to 600 Catholic families and individuals plan to open their homes to athletes families during competition, according to Jane Enniss, archdiocesan Atlanta HOST coordinator who was on hand for the World of Welcome kickoff.
Lou Erbs, who sits on Our Lady of the Assumptions Olympic planning committee and enjoyed the Shrines afternoon event, has spoken at OLAs weekend Masses to encourage volunteer participation. Parishioners with bilingual skills and a willingness to provide housing have come forth, he said, but more are needed. Theres going to be another pitch very soon, he promised.
Fellow OLA parishioner Sharon Adams is also enthusiastic about her suburban parishs Olympic linkup.
I wanted to be involved through the church, said Mrs. Adams, who feels the faith dimension of the Olympics is an important focus. Thats what draws people together anyway, she said.
Msgr. Louis Naughton came to the Shrine to catch the prayerful spirit and see for himself the Irish banner put together by members of QUEST Atlanta 96, the interdenominational Christian outreach to the Olympics.
They wanted to know the Gaelic word (for welcome) and how to write it, said the Irish-born priest, who happily provided the translation FAILTE that graces the deep green banner.
Though not all parishes and countries are currently represented in the historic churchs eye-catching array of banners, Shrine parishioner Lisa South said theres room for more. Additional banners conforming to color and size restriction will gladly be hung for the edification of Olympic visitors, said Ms. South.
For further information on Olympic volunteer opportunities at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, contact Pat Gardella at 355-4545. To learn about housing families of Olympic athletes, call Jane Enniss at 885-7245. To inquire about Paralympic volunteering, call the Atlanta Parlaympic Organizing Committee, Inc., at 588-1996. To add a parish banner to the Shrine display, contact Lisa South at 524-6208.