What I Have Seen And Heard
Published: February 28, 2008
Each parish has its own personality, and the distinctions are far more complex than merely the differences between large parishes and small parishes, rural parishes and city parishes. I made my first visit to the parish of Good Samaritan in Ellijay last Sunday, and it was indeed a festive occasion since this community only recently became a parish after having been a mission from St. Anthony’s in Blue Ridge for more than 40 years. It was a joy from beginning to end!
It’s always interesting for me to discover how parishes got their names, and often the parishioners themselves may not know that history. But sure enough, one of the parishioners told me that this parish had received the name Good Samaritan because on one occasion when the priest who was traveling to celebrate Mass for them had car trouble in route, a very kind gentleman stopped when he saw the stranded cleric and assisted him so that he could make it to the waiting community. From that specific incident came the name Good Samaritan because of the generous encounter with a Good Samaritan on the mountain roads of North Georgia.
Last Sunday was also the Lenten Sunday when the Gospel told the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Samaritans were thus a much-featured community, as this new parish rejoiced at its new official status.
Samaritans in the Gospel are often the heroes of those passages in which they appear in spite of the animosity that existed between them and the Jewish community. The Good Samaritan was the one with a compassionate heart, and the Samaritan woman—in spite of her checkered personal history—was the heroine in this wondrous story about the true living waters.
I can attest from even my short visit to Ellijay that there are indeed many Good Samaritans in this small but vibrant community.
Later that same evening, I celebrated Mass at another one of our parishes—Transfiguration in Marietta. This large, well-established and very active parish hosts a “youth-friendly Mass” on Sunday evening where the teens provide most of the ministries. The parish also invited me to participate in a family catechesis program during which teens and parents had supper together and heard presentations on the sacraments of marriage and holy orders. It was amazing to watch over 300 parents and young people engage in supper conversation about these two sacraments. They had also had two prior catechesis evenings on the sacraments of initiation and the sacraments of healing and reconciliation.
The energy in the room was electric, and the questions and answers indicated a high level of interest on the part of youngsters and adults alike. Such an endeavor said a lot about the pastoral leadership of the parish and the involvement of the parishioners in the faith formation of their youngsters.
They are two different parishes, but both possess a very similar spirit of generosity, hope and enthusiasm for the Catholic faith. Father Randy Mattox is zealous in his care of the Good Samaritan community as their first pastor, and Msgr. Patrick Bishop is notorious for his rousing enthusiasm for the folks at Transfiguration. Both communities are examples of how the Catholic Church is thriving in this archdiocese and why parishes play such a vital role in passing on the faith.