What I Have Seen And Heard
Published: August 18, 2011
As you are reading this column, I will be en route back home from a mission trip to Nigeria where two of the bishop delegates that I met at the 2009 Synod for Africa had invited me for a visit. Archbishop Valerian Okeke of the Archdiocese of Onitsha and Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of the Archdiocese of Abuja had asked me over a year ago to come on a pastoral visit to these two local Churches. I was honored to accept their kind invitation. Nigeria has sent many of its sons and daughters to reside in Atlanta, and more than a few of those sons and daughters are priests and women religious who enrich this local Church through their ministry and generous spiritual witness.
A few months before being assigned to the Archdiocese of Atlanta, I had the great privilege to visit Seoul, Korea. Upon my arrival here, I was delighted to discover the many thousands of Korean Catholics whose presence is a splendid gift to the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Last week, I presided at the ritual blessing of a second site for the Korean Martyrs Parish to accommodate our expanding Korean Catholic population. Some of the participants wore their splendid native garb for the ceremony, and the level of pride and enthusiasm was palpable. What a happy moment for them as they continue to grow in numbers.
Over the years prior to and since becoming the Archbishop of Atlanta, I have been very blessed to visit several countries to our south: Cuba, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. Each of those nations can claim many of our clergy and religious and faithful as their own special gift to this local Church. We indeed are a vibrant international community as our annual Eucharistic Congress clearly attests.
Atlanta may not have an Ellis Island that serves as a distinct monument to the arrival of our immigrant communities, but the Catholic churches of this Archdiocese serve as a suitable testimonial to the presence, cultures and ethnic traditions of people who now call the Archdiocese of Atlanta their home. We are an ecclesial family that has grown and developed through the presence of many immigrant peoples who have come to live here from all parts of the globe. We offer Mass each Sunday in Vietnamese, Portuguese, French, Polish, Korean, Spanish, English and Latin, reminding us all of the presence of neighbors and friends who have settled here from many other nations and allowing them to praise God in their native languages.
Our great and enduring challenge here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta is to serve effectively the many people who come to North Georgia bringing their deep Catholic faith and their cultural heritages. Our state has been blessed with the arrival of such a varied community of peoples helping Georgia itself to grow into one of the truly diverse human fellowships in the United States of America.
As I traveled to Nigeria, I was deeply grateful for the people who hail from that nation, especially the religious and clergy who serve us here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and I was equally proud to be an American, a citizen of a world community and a nation of welcome and hospitality.