Local News Archive
Print Issue: May 18, 2000
Deacon Woods Fathered Others In Faith
By Erika Anderson
ATLANTAThose who knew Deacon Homer Woods well, recall him as a kind, devoted family man who was impossible to dislike and who fathered a parish through his ministry.
The Our Lady of Lourdes deacon died May 8 at his Atlanta home. He was 77.
Deacon Woods is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, Maud, and seven children, Reginald, Robert, Nanette, Vertell, Homer and Joseph Woods and Diann Cheek. He is also survived by three grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
The funeral Mass for Deacon Woods, who was ordained to the permanent diaconate on Nov. 27, 1982, was celebrated May 13 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church by Father John Adamski, pastor.
When he heard of the death of Deacon Woods, Father Adamski said his first reaction was shock and his second was, Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Did anyone exemplify those words in his life more than Homer did? the pastor said in his homily.
A faithful servant who was totally and completely loyal to the church, he served at least six pastors (at Lourdes) that I know of and he was devoted to each one, Father Adamski said.
Homer poured out his life in service for us ... He saw in Jesus the example he was to modelJesus, the faithful servant ... Jesus, completely loyal to Gods saving ways.
Deacon Woods was ordained in the third class of deacons for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, which included the first African-American deacons in Atlanta.
The deacon is meant to serve and that is what Homer has done so well within this parish community for the last 16 years, Father Adamski said.
Every day he arrived at Our Lady of Lourdes for Mass or other events, he was concerned about the people, Father Adamski said. His main joy was to check in with people and see how everyone was doing.
Those of us who knew him saw Homer following Jesus example ... to live not for himself, but to live for the Lord in faithful service.
Homer fathered, in many ways, this community. That was the way in which he served all of us. That is the model we are called to reflect as we continue to live with one another following Jesus to Gods kingdom.
At the Mass, the choir from Our Lady of Lourdes sang. Four deacons, including Alfred Mitchell, vicar for deacons, placed the white pall and an embroidered cover on the casket. Father Adamski was assisted by Deacon Tom Zaworski of the parish. Priests concelebrating the Mass included Msgr. Henry Gracz, who has served as pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes, Msgr. Louis Naughton, judicial vicar of the archdiocese, and Father Richard Wise, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Decatur. Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Lourdes parishioners and staff from the Catholic Center were among those at the Mass, in addition to Deacon Woods family.
Ann Pitra, a long-time friend of Deacon Woods, attended the baptism of one of his grandchildren and remembers witnessing the pride and joy felt by the deacon for his family. She described him as a rare bird.
He was unfailingly cheerful, the sort of person you were always glad to see, she said. He was kind and devoted to his family and his church. You always knew when you would see him that you were going to hear a funny story or that he was going to tell you about his family. He just had such an appreciation and love for his family.
Born Aug. 10, 1922 in Los Angeles, Deacon Woods attended college in Texas where he volunteered for the Coast Guard. After leaving the service, he moved to New York, where he worked for the citys housing department and police department. It was in New York that he met his wife. The two would have been married 50 years on May 30.
The Woods moved to Atlanta in 1976, and Deacon Woods began his service as a deputy sheriff for DeKalb County.
He began working part-time at the Archdiocese of Atlanta Catholic Center in 1979 doing security and other odd jobs, and became a full-time employee there in 1988.
Zoe Johnson, director of human resources for the archdiocese, said that Deacon Woods was always willing to fill in wherever he was needed.
I remember that he would always make sure everyone had a lunch. He wanted to make sure that no one was hungry, she said.
Johnson said that Deacon Woods would often make runs to pick up lunch for people and oftentimes would refuse payment from them, insisting on treating.
He was a dear man, he really was, she said. He was kind of a fixture around here for many years.
Following his ordination, Deacon Woods served for two years at St. Paul of the Cross Church, Atlanta, before he began his assignment at Our Lady of Lourdes, where he remained until his death. His influence on the people at the parish he loved is evident.
Parishioner Sue Said, one of the lectors at the funeral Mass, said Deacon Woods was a man of simple, joyful faith, joyful and committed to his diaconate ministry. It was his life.
He was a father to the altar servers and the young men of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, two of whom are in formation for priesthood for Atlanta, she said. He talked freely and humbly about how Jesus sustained him in the illnesses in the latter part of his life. You sensed his transformation of growing closer and closer to the Lord day by day.
Seminarian Ricardo Bailey, who is in his first year of theology studying for the priesthood for the archdiocese, said Deacon Woods was the first one who ever took me under his wing and took me seriously in discerning my call to be a priest. He was always a profound influence on me.
I felt it in my heart when I was in the fifth grade, Bailey recalled of his desire to become a priest. Not many people would pay attention to me. He was the first to take an interest in me.
Deacon Woods picked him up and took him to Mass frequently when he was in grade school, Bailey said, made sure he had a ticket for special events like installation Masses for new archbishops and found a way for the young man to talk to the bishops informally. His grandfatherly concern was very influential in Baileys decision not only to study for the priesthood but specifically to become a priest for the Atlanta archdiocese.
He and his wife always had their home open to me on bad days and even on good days, said Bailey, who served at the funeral Mass. It was my dream that he would vest me when I was ordained a deacon ... He was just a wonderful man.
Chester Griffin, a friend of Deacon Woods for 10 years, recently entered the formation program for the diaconate, he said, because of his friends influence and example of service and commitment to living a Christian way of life.
He was not only a friend to me, but a father figure as well, he said. A lot of people turned to him for guidance.
Griffin said that a person could not know Deacon Woods and not like him. He remembers that on Sundays, when Deacon Woods walked into the church while the choir was practicing, the choir would all stop to say hello to him.
He was a good man. He was a very human person. You could see a lot of yourself in him and you could understand him, Griffin recalled. In some ways understanding him would help you to understand more about yourself.
Griffin said his friend and the impact he made on Our Lady of Lourdes will not be forgotten.
Hell be missed, but hell be cherished, he said. He didnt build any great monuments; he didnt write any great books, but he did something that will last a lot longer he influenced people and he made them feel good about themselves, and thats whats important.