What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: June 15, 2006
The biblical description of the first Pentecost should hold special meaning for the Archdiocese of Atlanta because our own identity is very much that of a multicultural, multi-racial community of Faith. While I have not personally met any Parthians, Medes, Elamites, or residents from most of those other named places, we do have residents from many different nations and cultures. And like the author of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles suggests, we continue to face the challenge of speaking to all of them in the singular and God-inspired language of Faith, Love and Welcome.
One of our parishes that epitomizes the Pentecost event celebrated its 40th Jubilee last weekend. St. Thomas the Apostle in Smyrna had a wonderful outdoor Mass that welcomed around 3,000 parishioners to give thanks for their history, heritage and future. It was a joy to see so many people coming together in such an obvious spirit of warmth, friendship and enthusiasm. They wore festive native garb, prayed in many of the languages of their native lands, carried banners that reflected the many different ministries that the parish supports, and above all, they rejoiced in one another’s friendship and affection. St. Thomas exulted in their identity as a Pentecost People. During the Mass, we blessed a new image of St. Thomas, which was painted by an Indian artist whose artistic design linked the parish to that land where tradition tells us that St. Thomas the Apostle proclaimed the Gospel of Christ and suffered martyrdom.
The Saturday before I had dedicated the new Vietnamese Mission Church of the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam. Here again, the presence of wonderful people of Faith continues to enrich our Archdiocese with their deep Catholic Faith and enchanting cultural heritage. Surrounded by many different people from Holy Cross Parish where the mission had begun, we blessed this new facility that will serve the expanding numbers of Vietnamese-speaking Catholics in the northern metro area.
I was deeply touched at the Priests’ Jubilee celebration that week when some of our priests, speaking in tribute to the jubilarians, told a few of the stories of their ministry here in Atlanta during the early days of welcoming new language and cultural groups to this local Church. I applaud all of my brothers who have worked and continue to work so generously to extend a welcome to all those people that have made Atlanta their home during these past decades. That welcome includes not merely language and cultural outreach, but a welcome to those Catholics who have settled here from other parts of our own nation.
We are an Archdiocese that is richly blessed by people who have settled here and made us a community every bit as diverse as that one described in the story of the first Pentecost. May the Spirit of God help us all to proclaim the one Faith and to discover the strength of Love and Unity that was so apparent in those early days of the Church.