What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: May 26, 2005
There are literally scores of them here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. I am familiar with many of them, and I actually hold membership in several. Each of them has the good of the Church at the heart of their structure.
Lay organizations abound in this local Church.
The Knights of Saint Peter Claver, the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher and the Knights of Malta are among the better known organizations that invite Catholics into a fraternal association for the works of the Church.
Catholic women are the very backbone of the works of the Church in our Archdiocese, and I was privileged to host a brunch for more than 165 representatives of these groups week last week at my home. Then there are the numerous spiritual associations that provide an opportunity for our people to develop their devotion to a particular pious practice.
The lay organizations are available for all types of people. There are lay associations for young people, for women, for the Spanish-speaking, for those who speak Vietnamese, Korean, and Creole. The presence of these lay groups is a sign of health for our local Church since they represent a clear indication that people are actively pursuing their life of Faith. We clerics are usually associated with these lay groups as chaplains, thus linking them to the liturgical celebration and expressions of our Catholic Faith.
The other day I met with representatives from many of the Hispanic lay organizations. These fine people help to prepare young couples for marriage, strengthen the marriages of those who are already living the Sacrament, support the desire of those who find comfort and encouragement in the charismatic prayer expressions of the Church, and promote the social justice activities of our Catholic Faith. Many of these organizations are extensions of programs that originated in Central or Latin America; others were developed here in the U.S. as an outgrowth of the pastoral needs and spiritual vitality of the newly arrived immigrant community.
We also have many structures that advance the works of charity in caring for those with HIV and AIDS, support the mission of the Church in the Holy Land, provide for the needs of the poor and underserved in our own community, and celebrate the cultural diversity of the Church in North Georgia. I have been impressed with the many societies that have a history and a place within the Archdiocese of Atlanta. We are a very healthy flock of believers who act upon the many concerns that flow from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And there are still many groups who have not yet gotten onto my calendar for an introductory encounter.
It will take me many months more to meet all of these fine groups of people, a clear indication of the breadth and richness of our Catholic presence throughout the Archdiocese.
I realize that I still have much to learn about the vibrancy and the activities of our lay organizations. It will take me more time to meet all of the people who promote the works of spiritual development and charity in these 69 counties.
I have already discovered that our people are alive with zeal for the works of the Gospel and for the promotion of our Catholic heritage, and that discovery is a source of deep satisfaction for me and for so many others, both Catholic and non-Catholics alike.