By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published Thursday, January 17, 2013
ATLANTA—An historic appointment of a second auxiliary bishop for the Atlanta Archdiocese has been made from among the priests of the archdiocese, as Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop-designate David P. Talley, 62, to assist Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
A native of Columbus, who was raised as a Southern Baptist and entered the Catholic Church during college, he will be ordained a bishop on Easter Tuesday, April 2, at the Cathedral of Christ the King.
Making the announcement Jan. 3 at a press conference in Atlanta, Archbishop Gregory called Bishop-designate Talley “one of our finest priests.”
Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Msgr. David Talley, pastor of St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek, as an auxiliary bishop of Atlanta. (Photo by Michael Alexander)
The bishop-designate said he will “hope to give my whole heart” in his new ministry and “assist in shepherding the people” alongside Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama. “One more worker,” he said.
“It’s all new. What an understatement,” said Bishop-designate Talley, who wore a pin of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his lapel.
He learned Dec. 18 of the appointment at his office at St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek, in a phone call from the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. Bishop-designate Talley said the nuncio “encouraged me to trust in the Lord.”
The announcement was made public Jan. 3 because it is the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, he said. He ended his formal remarks at the press conference with a simple, “Pray for me.”
Msgr. David Talley, then pastor of St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn, foreground, and Msgr. Paul Fogarty, pastor of St. Thomas More Church, Decatur, background, stand among other priests as they renew their priestly commitment during the 2008 Chrism Mass. (Photos by Michael Alexander)
Bishop-designate Talley was ordained in 1989 at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, by Archbishop Eugene Marino, SSJ. He earned a licentiate and doctorate in canon law from the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, Italy, in 1995 and 1998, respectively, and has served in a number of pastoral roles in the archdiocese, including as the vocations director, the chancellor of the archdiocese, and as judicial vicar of the Metropolitan Tribunal. He was named a prelate of honor, with the title of monsignor, by Pope John Paul II in 2001.
He was a philosophy student at Auburn University, where he graduated in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree. He also received a master’s degree in clinical social work in 1985 at the University of Georgia. His formation for the priesthood was at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana.
News of the appointment circulated quickly in the Catholic community, especially among advocates for those with disabilities who are thrilled to have an ally in Bishop-designate Talley.
Pat Tweed works with him at Toni’s Camp, the annual weekend that draws more than 80 young people with disabilities and as many volunteers to a getaway camp where they have unhampered fun each May.
Bishop-designate David Talley receives congratulations Jan. 3 from Chancery staff member Kirial DeRozas-Miles, who was his administrative assistant when he served as vocations director and chancellor. She is now executive assistant to Bishop Luis R. Zarama.
“Oh my God, we are ecstatic. We can’t wait for the second of April,” said Tweed, the head of the disabilities ministry at St. Jude Church.
She has known the bishop-designate since he came to the parish on his first assignment as a newly ordained priest more than 20 years ago.
“David wanted to be part of us. He wants to wear the red shirt,” she said, referring to the T-shirt that identifies the volunteers. “He wants to be part of the living of the camp. He works as hard as anybody else” from unloading children off buses to baiting a worm on a hook to help a young person fish. She recalled how he once flew back during his studies in Rome, Italy, to participate at the camp.
His experience ministering among people with disabilities is key to his spiritual life, Bishop-designate Talley said.
“All they can do is ask the Lord for help. That simplicity and humility is where I think the church should be—humble before God,” he said.
Others who have known him a long time also championed his new role.
Father Richard Wise was pastor at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Decatur, when Bishop-designate Talley was a deacon at the parish.
“The word that immediately came to mind was ‘wow’! And the second word was praise God, ” said Father Wise, who is pastor of Our Lady of the Mount Church, Lookout Mountain.
Father Wise checked the Vatican website to confirm the news.
“When I read the Holy Father appointed him, my heart soared. I was elated,” he said. “He is very devout. He has the natural inclination to care. That was his starting point for his pastoral experience, he cared.”
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, center, is joined by Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama, auxiliary bishop of Atlanta, left, and the pope’s newest appointment, Bishop-designate David Talley, following a morning press conference Jan. 3.
Another unusual circumstance for the new bishop-designate is being raised in another denomination. He was raised as a Southern Baptist before he left organized religion in his teens. He joined the Catholic Church in his mid-20s during his studies at Auburn University, thanks in part to the writings of Thomas Merton. (Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory is also a convert. He joined the church while attending a parochial school in Chicago.)
Bishop-designate Talley is among a small group of bishops who joined the Catholic Church as adults. Among them are Bishop Paul J. Swain of Sioux Falls, N.D.; Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., and Bishop Herbert A. Bevard of St. Thomas, American Virgin Islands.
Talley’s family members remain faithful Baptists, including a brother who is a deacon. That background gives him a broad view, he said. “I do know a faith across the spectrum,” he said.
When he was director of vocations, the archdiocese initiated a cross-cultural immersion program for seminarians where they spent time living in El Paso, Texas, and in Juarez, Mexico, to learn Spanish and be more knowledgeable about Hispanic culture.
Bishop-designate Talley is currently the pastor of St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek. He will continue as pastor until his ordination as a bishop.
For the first time in its history the 69-county Atlanta Archdiocese has received two auxiliary bishops to assist the archbishop in leading the 1 million Catholics. He will also be the first native Georgian to serve as a bishop in the archdiocese.
Archbishop Gregory said the appointment of a second auxiliary bishop is a sign of how church leaders see the vibrant Catholic community in the northern half of Georgia. It is “an obvious recognition of and an invitation for our continued growth and development as a vibrant community of Catholic faith,” he said in a statement.
There are some 17 other U.S. dioceses with multiple auxiliary bishops. Archbishop Gregory said this appointment is an “indication of the movement South of many Catholics” and growth of the church here.
“There is life going on in Atlanta,” he said. Now the bishops can be “of greater service” to this community that is “alive with faith.”
“Now we can be at three different places” at once, the archbishop said.
Looking side-to-side at his smiling auxiliary bishop and bishop-designate, Archbishop Gregory said with a laugh, “This is the best the church can do.”