By Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer | Published November 13, 2014
On two previous occasions I had driven to Sharon, Ga., home to Georgia’s oldest Catholic church, Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary; however, I had never been to the Locust Grove Cemetery, Georgia’s oldest Catholic cemetery. It’s approximately three miles from the church, in a wooded area, off an unpaved road.
I was there to attend the Nov. 8 All Souls’ Mass at the cemetery, an annual liturgy that has taken place there since 1982. For some people, cemeteries conjure up creepy, spooky feelings, accompanied by fear. I must have shared those feelings as a child, because my father had a saying. “Son, there’s more to be feared from the living than the dead. The people walking among us are the ones that can do you harm.”
As a photographer and photojournalist, I no longer share those fears. Cemeteries are great places to explore and photograph, because they reveal elements of photography like angles, light and texture. There’s usually a wealth of stories too.
After the Mass I was walking around the hallowed resting place of former English, French and Irish Catholics. For the most part my concentration was on the various tombstones, some so old you could barely make out the names and date of death inscribed across them; yet, there was one instance when I was walking past a tree, I turned around to look behind me, and my attention was drawn to an image on the tree.
The surface of the tree bark was covered with a vine of some sort climbing up its side. A section of the vine reminded me of the crucified Jesus. With a small leaf at center of the vine’s intersection, almost like the head of Jesus, and the vine splitting off into two like the arms of Jesus nailed to the cross, I became fixated on such a likeness to the Son of God.
It may not be apparent to you and that’s okay. Christ reveals himself to each of us in assorted ways and different places. I’m glad I had the opportunity to walk among the dead at Locust Grove Cemetery. In their early attempts to find a place to settle, they, too, must have seen the face of Jesus somewhere in Locust Grove; thus, paving the way for Catholics who reside today in Taliaferro County.
For more photos of the Mass and cemetery see the Nov. 13 edition of The Georgia Bulletin, page 4, or visit The Georgia Bulletin photo gallery at https://gabull.smugmug.com/Masses/Locust-Grove-Cemetery-and-All/