By Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer | Published August 6, 2013
Every August (or late July) since 2006 a group photograph of Archdiocese of Atlanta seminarians has been taken. Archbishop Gregory, the vocations director and an auxiliary bishop usually join them for the photograph.
The week of the photograph the seminarians are attending a retreat at Ignatius House, Atlanta. The photo session takes place on a designated day following the 5 p.m. Mass celebrated by Archbishop Gregory, and attended by members of Serra Atlanta.
Nearly 40 seminarians line up on the lush, green grounds between the chapel and retreat center. The first couple of years were rather comical when it came to getting the young men lined up in an orderly fashion.
With the help of the Vocations Office, particularly Sally Scardasis, executive assistant to the vocations director, over as many years, it’s nearly down to a science now. Scardasis provides a head count of seminarians and deacons, and then the approximate number of people needed on rows two through four can be determined. Row one always contains the transitional deacons, the seminarians ordained to the priesthood the succeeding year, seated with the archbishop.
Sometimes the vocation director, Father Tim Hepburn, stands like he did last year. This year, however, there were only five deacons, so he sat with them, because there needed to be an even number of people on both sides of the archbishop. That’s Father Hepburn, seated third from the right, on the first row. One might confuse him for a seminarian, but don’t be fooled. Father Hepburn has been a priest for 20 years and the vocations director for two years.
Since the photograph takes place outdoors, the weather’s cooperation is a crucial element in making the whole thing work. In the previous seven years we’ve done the photograph, rain has not thwarted our efforts. This year, more than any prior year, rain was a real concern. All week long there had been a number of pop up showers around the city and the evening hours posed the greatest threat. The prior day was practically a wash out around Atlanta. According to The Weather Channel app for the day of the photo, the forecast for rain diminished as the evening hours approached, so there was a sense of relief.
As I was outside the chapel during Mass, making some final preparations and taking some test shots, it was gorgeous as white puffy clouds moved across a sun lit, blue sky. But around the time for holy Communion, the scene drastically changed to overcast skies, with a real chance of rain looming. I even felt a very slight sprinkle or two, but by the time Mass concluded, the ominous clouds were moving away and the sun was trying to reveal itself again.
There’s no doubt in my mind God’s guiding hand had a lot to do with it, so in the end good weather prevailed once again and we were able to capture the photograph. That means the streak continues – eight years and counting.