Print Issue: January 2, 2003
2002: Hispanics Surveyed, New School Opens, Province Addresses Abuse Scandal
By Gretchen Keiser, Staff Writer
ATLANTA - The Archdiocese of Atlanta in 2002 conducted and published an important survey of the rapidly growing Hispanic community in North Georgia, to understand the demographics of this diverse group of Catholics and to learn from them what are their most important needs.
Designed and carried out by Agnes Scott College anthropologist Martha Rees, Ph.D., it was completed in March. It estimates conservatively that there are 460,000 Hispanics in North Georgia. Hispanics are now the country's largest minority and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops projects that the Catholic Church will be over 50 percent Hispanic by the second decade of this century.
The archdiocesan survey found that English classes were the single greatest need, requested by 35 percent of those surveyed. Other needs expressed were legal advice, help getting a driver's license and medical care. Few people said they needed financial help. Most are working and supporting themselves.
While 46 parishes and missions in the archdiocese offer Spanish Masses, 22 of them, fewer than half, offer English classes.
The survey was developed from a statistical sample of Hispanics attending Masses celebrated in Spanish in each archdiocesan parish and mission offering Spanish Mass.
Demographically, 75 percent of Hispanics attending the Mases are from Mexico, 7.3 percent from Colombia and 3.9 percent from Guatemala. Many other countries, including Cuba, Venezuela and El Salvador, are represented.
Some parishes have Hispanic communities that are predominantly from one country; for example, at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Cleveland the community is Guatemalan, and at St. George Church in Newnan the community is Colombian.
Overall, however, the term Hispanic covers a rainbow of cultures in many parishes, already changing the face of the Catholic Church in North Georgia, with many more changes on the horizon.
Among the challenges facing the archdiocese are developing ministries to respond to the needs and building communication and collaborative ministry in individual parishes among those who are Hispanic and those who are not Hispanic.
Cultural differences, different ways of experiencing church, different devotional practices, how to share space and simple lack of knowledge between immigrant Hispanics and Anglos are among the challenges that face Catholics in the archdiocese.
The survey can be viewed on the archdiocesan Web site at www.archatl.com.
Also during this year, a new parish elementary school was opened at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Kennesaw. This school is being approached from the perspective of utilizing existing religious education buildings, rather than building a new school. Tuition hopefully can be kept lower since the expense of opening the school does not include the major capital cost of a new building. The school will be self-funded and will seek accreditation from the Southern Association of Independent Schools. Robyn Planchard was named first principal of St. Catherine of Siena School.
Also, Catholics and other supporters in the Athens area broke ground for what will be a self-supporting regional Catholic high school serving the Athens-Clarke County area. The school will be named for Msgr. Walter Donovan, former pastor in Athens.
The land was purchased three years ago by the nonprofit corporation Northeast Georgia Catholic High School, Inc. The self-sustaining model is the first of its kind in the archdiocese and will operate independently, but under the normal guidelines applicable to other archdiocesan schools.
Barbara Dooley and her husband, Vince, athletic director at the University of Georgia, are serving as chairpersons of the high school development campaign. The minimum fund-raising goal is $3 million before opening.
The archdiocese also responded to the national crisis over sexual abuse cases by priests that began in the Boston Archdiocese in January and became over the course of the year the most serious crisis in the history of the U.S. Catholic Church.
Under the leadership of Archbishop John F. Donoghue, the bishops of Georgia and North and South Carolina endorsed a policy that would permanently remove from ministry any priest with even one confirmed allegation of sexual misconduct of a minor-past, present or future. The so-called "zero tolerance" policy favored by the bishops of the Atlanta Province was adopted by the U.S. bishops at their plenary meeting held in June in Dallas, Texas.
The U.S. bishops overwhelmingly adopted a "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and norms that would make the charter's key provisions part of canon law.
After revisions developed by a commission of U.S. and Vatican prelates were approved in November, the norms were officially recognized by the Holy See in December.
They become particular church law for the United States effective March 1, 2003.
Among the key provisions are that each diocese has a written policy for addressing allegations of sexual abuse against priests, deacons, lay employees and volunteers, and a review board comprised of a majority of Catholic lay persons not employed by the diocese, to assist the bishop.
Archbishop Donoghue at year's end said that he expected the sexual abuse policy of the archdiocese, which was revised to reflect the new national norms and charter, to be announced shortly. He also held a series of listening sessions with priests serving in the archdiocese.
Also in 2002, Kenneth Joseph Cassity, 43, was arrested in Polk County, Fla., on charges that he sexually molested three youths while he was an "interim pastoral aide" at St. Ann's Church, Marietta, in 1999 and 2000. Cassity was extradited back to Cobb County to face the charges.
The Eucharistic Congress held on the feast of Corpus Christi at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park drew an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people.
Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the Vatican's representative to the church in the United States, and Cardinal Jozef Tomko, the president of the Pontifical Commission for International Eucharistic Congresses, led the roster of spiritual presenters for those who came. Separate tracks were held for teens, middle school students and children, as well as for Hispanic Catholics.
The Hispanic Catholics of the San Felipe de Jesús Mission in Grant Park were in the news in 2002. The church, a mission of Sacred Heart Church, Atlanta, had outgrown its rented space on McDonough Boulevard, to the point where Masses were being celebrated outside with worshippers kneeling on the ground and enduring cold weather and rain protected only by a tarp and shed. This had been the case since 1999.
Efforts between the archdiocese and the mission, led by priest-in-charge Father Jose Duvan, had reached an impasse over finding a site for a new church that was affordable and in a location accessible to the Hispanic people in Grant Park.
Many failed efforts to find an acceptable location were resolved in late 2002, when the San Felipe de Jesús community moved into a church in Forest Park.
New guidelines for the sacrament of confirmation were adopted in 2002. The sacrament will be uniformly administered in the 10th grade beginning in the fall of 2002. Under the new guidelines, the preparation for confirmation will be a short, intensive, free-standing program. The shift from younger ages of confirmation to 10th grade is intended to emphasize that this is a sacrament of initiation and to offer it to teenagers when they have reached a greater level of maturity.
In other news of the year:
Over 1,700 people entered the Catholic Church in the archdiocese at Easter. The Rite of Election was held at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park on Feb. 16.
Our Lady of Victory School, Tyrone, and Holy Redeemer School, Alpharetta, two of the three elementary schools opened by the archdiocese in 1999, received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
St. Gerard Church, Fort Oglethorpe, and St. Joseph Church, Marietta, celebrated 50th anniversaries. St. Jude School, Atlanta, celebrated a 40th anniversary. All Saints Church, Dunwoody, St. Augustine Church, Covington, Transfiguration Church, Marietta, and Sacred Heart Church, Hartwell, celebrated 25th anniversaries.