By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published December 19, 2013
In keeping with a tradition at many publications, The Georgia Bulletin staff took time to reflect on the top news stories and events of the year. It was an historic year for the Catholic Church, locally and internationally. It was also an anniversary year, as the chronology of the archdiocese marched in rhythm with the call of Pope Benedict XVI to look back at the 50th anniversary of Vatican II and the events of 1963.
Here’s a brief look at 11 significant stories and events in the Atlanta Archdiocese in 2013:
We dedicate our Year of Faith to Mary
The archdiocese highlighted the Virgin Mary during its observance of the Year of Faith.
Pope Benedict XVI opened the year, held from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013. In his Apostolic Letter “Porta Fidei,” he wrote the year should be a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world.”
The year also marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and also the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
During the year, Catholics were asked to study and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and the catechism to deepen their knowledge of the faith.
Archbishop Gregory also declared the Year of Faith a Marian Year in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. The declaration recognized Mary, Mother of God, as the model on the journey of faith.
There were several special events for the year, including the Eucharistic Congress with its theme from words spoken by Mary at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.” For the tech savvy, there were apps for smart phones that allowed people to submit prayers.
Two short films earned the top prize as part of the archdiocesan Year of Faith video contest—a trip to Rome, Italy. Filmmakers were asked to contribute a three-minute film focused on faith. About 15 nominations were submitted with Julio Palacio and Mary and Kate Papania both grand-prize winners.
We welcome a second auxiliary bishop
It was an historic moment. In a first, the Archdiocese of Atlanta received a second auxiliary bishop and he was the first Georgia native to serve here as a bishop.
Bishop David Talley was the pastor of St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek, when he received a phone call from the pope’s representative in the United States. He was told Pope Benedict XVI had selected him to serve as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Struggling to understand the news, he was told by Archbishop Carlo Vigano to “trust in the Lord.”
A former social worker who once worked in Atlanta’s violent housing projects, Bishop Talley joined Bishop Luis Zarama in serving as an auxiliary with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory to care for believers in the 69 counties of the archdiocese.
He was ordained on Easter Tuesday, April 2, in an age-old ceremony at Christ the King Cathedral, joined by 13 other bishops. Archbishop Gregory ordained him, with Bishop Zarama and Savannah Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., completing the threefold prayer for a new bishop’s ordination.
“Easter is a moment of hope and promise and the heart of the Church is renewed in a special way during this season,” Archbishop Gregory said. “Your ordination as bishop adds to our hope and greatly comforts this local Church to know that you will begin the apostolic service in our midst.”
We honor nine new monsignors
Huddled around the wood-paneled conference room table on March 7, 2013, seven priests wondered why they had been summoned to the archbishop’s office. (Two more were invited but unable to attend: one away at a doctor’s appointment and another at a funeral out of state.)
There was noticeably little in common among the men; some served in majority Hispanic parishes, while others served smaller parishes in the northern reaches of archdiocese, and one was a longtime college chaplain.
But they soon learned the news: because of their service, they would now be recognized as chaplains of his holiness with the title of monsignor.
In one of his final acts before retiring, Pope Benedict XVI, at the request of Archbishop Gregory, handed out the honors.
The new monsignors were: Msgr. Frank McNamee, rector of Christ the King Cathedral, Atlanta; Msgr. Ed Thein, rector of Sacred Heart Basilica, Atlanta; Msgr. John Walsh, pastor of St. Joseph, Marietta; Msgr. Ed Branch, campus minister at Lyke House, Atlanta; Msgr. Jim Schillinger, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Atlanta; Msgr. Albert Jowdy, pastor of St. Lawrence, Lawrenceville; Msgr. Jaime Barona, pastor of St. Michael, Gainesville; Msgr. Daniel Stack, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, Cartersville; and Msgr. Peter Rau, pastor of St. Peter Chanel, Roswell.
We celebrate our Eucharistic Congress for the 18th time
Tens of thousands of Catholics from across the archdiocese and beyond crowded the 18th annual Eucharistic Congress to hear nationally known speakers and deepen their faith.
“It’s the most accurate cross-section of American Catholics under one roof,” said Victor Pap, who attends St. Michael the Archangel Church, Woodstock.
The theme of the 2013 event at the Georgia International Convention Center focused on the Year of Faith, with the emphasis on the Virgin Mary and her words at the wedding feast in Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.”
The morning keynote homilist was Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States. He told the crowd, “Mary encourages us to put our entire lives—our past, our present, our future—into her son’s hands” to transform us “into something better.”
Men and women of all colors streamed through the convention hall, speaking many languages, and sessions were offered in English, Vietnamese and Spanish. Deaf participants attended presentations using American Sign Language.
Archbishop Gregory welcomed the crowd in the cavernous conference hall.
“It is a celebration that brings together our growing and diverse community,” he said.
The experience of the congress is different for everyone as some listen to speakers, others reconnect with friends and others receive the sacrament of reconciliation, he said.
Top names in Catholic circles, like Dr. Scott Hahn, spoke to crowds about the Catholic faith and the need for people to share it. Hispanic Catholics joined together in a lively display of faith, watched over by a large framed portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Father Eduardo Chavez, the founder and director of Mexico City’s Institute of Guadalupan Studies, gave the keynote speech. He said the famous apparition is more than an icon, but an object of devotion that is followed by millions and a “universal mother.”
The 19th congress is scheduled for June 20-21, 2014. Its theme is “Go and make disciples.” The featured speaker is Benedictine Mother Dolores Hart.
“It’s like a revival, spiritually, physically, emotionally. It’s fantastic. It’s open to everyone. For me, it’s a fantastic experience,” said Anastasia Joseph, of Christ Our Hope Church, Lithonia.
We cheer on a new football team
Students at a small independent Catholic high school, situated in the mecca of Georgia football, strapped on shoulder pads as a team for the first time.
The community at Monsignor Donovan High School, Athens, came out in force as the Rams marked their inaugural football season. After starting the season 3-0, the team ended with a 4-4 season.
Parents and school supporters celebrated the milestone. It was not just for success on the scoreboard but for the community spirit that students and parents came together on Friday nights. Some 300 people at the first game filled the sidelines, as students painted themselves in the school’s colors of white and blue.
An expanded cheerleading program and a pep band to entertain the fans were unveiled in addition to the football program.
With former Vanderbilt quarterback Kurt Page coaching the young players, the team scored 36 touchdowns. The defense hauled in six interceptions.
We recognize the historical significance of our oldest parish
One of the state’s oldest Catholic churches is in need of TLC or risks being lost.
The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation placed the white wood-framed Church of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary on its 2014 “Places in Peril” list.
The listing ensures the church receives a “high level of preservation assistance” from the nonprofit organization.
The church, along with nearby Locust Grove Cemetery, the oldest Catholic burial ground in Georgia, are part of “the cradle of Catholicism in the South.”
The white church dates to 1883. Catholics came to this rural region of the state in the late 18th century. It was originally part of the mission territory of the Baltimore, Md., Diocese.
A nonprofit group, the Friends of Purification Church, is working to complete a three-part restoration project, with the first expected to run between $300,000 to $350,000.
One goal is to create a pilgrimage site for visitors, that would pay tribute to the “graces of our forefathers—the Irish, French, and English—who began arriving the year George Washington was made president,” said Father Vincent Sullivan, pastor at nearby St. Joseph Church, Washington. The old church is a station church, meaning it no longer serves an active faith community. The preservation project website is savepurificationchurch.com.
We celebrate two new Catholic schools
Catholic education continued to draw families and students as two schools celebrated unique accomplishments.
Sophia Academy, located on Dresden Drive in Atlanta, in November received approval to be recognized as an independent Catholic school.
Leaders at the school met the required 12 steps to receive the recognition, including having secured school accreditation; offering religious education daily to all students; sharing a Catholic perspective in all subjects; and having on-site visits and review of budgets.
Marie Corrigan, Sophia Academy’s founding and admissions director, started the school in 1999 to meet the educational needs of her daughter Caroline. She was born prematurely and ultimately had developmental delays that affected learning.
The academy supports students with mild to moderate learning difficulties as well as those whose families want smaller class sizes or a specialized learning environment.
Corrigan views the academy as the “jewel in the crown” or a model of what can happen when “we live our faith.” Sophia Academy is affiliated with the Marist religious community.
Another school milestone in 2013 was marked with heavy sledgehammers. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed joined Archbishop Gregory, along with other dignitaries and students, to break through a wall at a groundbreaking for the new Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School.
The school is to serve girls and boys who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds with a college prep education. Student will have paid internships at Atlanta businesses to help pay for educational costs.
The school will be in the Midtown neighborhood, in the building that formerly housed the archdiocesan administrative offices at 680 West Peachtree St.
The plan is to start with 125 freshmen in 2014 and add a freshman class a year until enrollment reaches 500 students.
We welcome a new CEO for Catholic Charities
Miguel San Juan is the new chief executive of Catholic Charities Atlanta but is no stranger to the crucial work of this nonprofit.
In the early 1960s, he and his older sister, Alina, arrived in the United States along with thousands of young refugees sent by their parents from Cuba as part of what is now called “Operation Pedro Pan.”
They were sheltered by Catholic Welfare (Catholic Charities) in Miami. Later, they were placed with a loving Catholic foster family.
“We experienced the full range of the services and the good will that was extended to us every step of the way,” from the camp to the foster home, San Juan said. He recognizes the many blessings that were shown to him and his sister during their childhood and brings that same compassion to his new position.
“I feel very comfortable being here because I can relate, having been a refugee myself and knowing what an immigrant goes through,” he said. “We’re trying to do the best we can to make those individuals and those families whole and self-sufficient.”
San Juan relocated to Atlanta from Houston, Texas, where he served as managing director of Globalinvest Ventures and Capital, a business consulting firm.
He lives in Roswell with his wife, Lucia Navarro, an anchor on CNN Español’s morning show Café CNN, and their three sons.
The nonprofit, with nearly $6.7 million revenue in 2012, also celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding in 1953 as Catholic Social Services of Metropolitan Atlanta.
We learn from childhood cancer survivors
Children and cancer: two words you never want to hear one after the other.
The Georgia Bulletin profiled young men who had come out of the crucible of cancer treatment, in addition to a husband-and-wife team of doctor and pediatric nurse practitioner who treat these ill youngsters. A family shared their story about burying a son who died at 20 from bone cancer.
The young people spoke about the hardships of the treatment and leaned on their faith to bring them through the darkest days.
To other young people and adults just beginning cancer treatment, Andrew Vassil, a senior at Blessed Trinity High School, in Roswell, said, “Every day fighting cancer is a battle for your life. That battle will never be easy, but there are so many people who care about you that are praying for you and want to support you. Embrace that.”
For Will Hennessy, a Blessed Trinity junior, the cancer diagnosis and treatment changed his view of the world and God.
“It strengthened my faith in God and my faith in humanity because so many people stepped forward to help me the year I was sick,” he said.
Annamarie Robb and her husband, Sam, talked about the intense emotions they experienced when their son, Sam, was diagnosed at 15 and died five years later.
In response to the heartbreak, they started the Sam Robb Fund to raise money for childhood cancer research, which to date has garnered over $365,000.
Any parent, like Annamarie, would rather take the place of his or her child. She said the journey strengthened the family’s reliance on faith and prayer.
“With prayer, it doesn’t mean you automatically get what you want. … (Suffering) is not what God wants. The world is unjust and imperfect, but God gets you through it. … You still do storm the heavens with prayers. God helps you travel the journey,” she said.
Thomas and Ellen Olson for decades have sat beside the sickest youngsters as the husband and wife treat their childhood cancer and other illnesses relying on science. They draw strength and hope, relying on faith. Parishioners at All Saints, in Dunwoody, they work at The Aflac Cancer Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, he as a physician and she as a nurse practitioner.
Cancer in children is a heart-wrenching experience. For Thomas, 61, his faith shapes how he sees his work. “It’s not about a just God. It’s about how we go through life. That’s what I learned in religion and believe in. That’s what you have to live by,” he said.
He said the study of science and medicine, revealing the complexity of living organisms, has deepened his faith in God. The care of young cancer patients includes respect for the family and for the children, he said, whether the journey ends in a cure or not. About 80 percent of children and young adults with cancer survive.
Ellen said, “It’s part of life and you have to deal with the difficult bumps in the road that come in life. Science and God give us the faith to work through all those sorts of problems because there are good and bad outcomes. With my faith, it gives me an inner peace.”
We mark The Georgia Bulletin’s 50th year
The Georgia Bulletin marked its half-century anniversary.
With a circulation of just over 70,000 and a robust online presence, the work to keep tabs on the nearly 1 million Catholics spread across 69 counties of north Georgia continues.
During the past year, the paper looked back to its founding. The tumultuous events of 1963 were compiled in a column published in nearly every issue. Readers saw a slice of Catholic life from the Atlanta community as if from a time capsule.
The paper was launched with a column from Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan. He said, “The religious press is not meant to be a ‘house organ’ or a ‘trade sheet.’ Its whole reason for being is that it might enter the community bearing light and courage—light enough to expose society’s ills as well as strengths; courage enough to inspire justice and charity in those who might falter along the path.”
The 1963 editors covered primarily national and international news in the paper’s inaugural year, from the death of Pope John XXIII and election of Pope Paul VI to the March on Washington and the assassination of President Kennedy. But it was also a strong year for local news, as the paper promoted Monastery of the Holy Spirit milk, which promised no less than 4 percent butter fat, updates from the Second Vatican Council written by Archbishop Hallinan, and a literary supplement led by an article by Flannery O’Connor, a “well-known author of stimulating short stories and several novels.”
A redesign of The Georgia Bulletin, with a fresh appearance that provides new types of stories and editorials, and a new website were also part of 2013.
We walk in faith with our new pope
A man of the church stepped out onto the centuries-old balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on March 13, 2013, offered a few words and then asked people to pray for him.
Pope Francis, the former cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, became the 266th successor of St. Peter. In a papal transition that was already historic, the selection of Pope Francis set more precedents: the first pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit pope.
On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign the office. In a simple message in Latin he told a gathering of cardinals that his strength, due to his advanced age, was not enough to carry the duties of the papal office. He had been elected pope in April 2005, serving for eight years.
Archbishop Gregory was asked to serve as a commentator for ABC News in Rome as the world watched and waited for the election of a new pope. Father Luke Ballman, a priest of the archdiocese serving at the North American College in Rome, gave The Georgia Bulletin firsthand reports as the church received the news of the resignation of Pope Benedict and then as Pope Francis was introduced as the new pope. Jesuits and lay staff at the Ignatius House Jesuit retreat center in Atlanta reflected with joy when one of their religious order became pope.
He has not changed doctrine. But Pope Francis has changed its practice, putting the needs of the poor and the marginalized at the center of his papacy. His early actions showed his humility: He returned to his hotel to pay his bill after his papal election. On Holy Thursday, he washed in imitation of Jesus the feet of young inmates, including women, in a juvenile facility and celebrated the evening Mass of Holy Thursday in the prison rather than a basilica. He lives in a modest hotel in the Vatican, not the Apostolic Palace.
People in the Atlanta Archdiocese have followed him closely. Newsmaker stories and photos often fill The Georgia Bulletin.
People of all faiths—or none—are drawn to his message. He is a social media phenomenon. He was the most popular topic globally on Facebook. Time magazine selected him as its 2013 Person of the Year.