By Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer | Published May 11, 2016
When I was a kid I would accompany my father to the Archdiocese of Louisville’s annual Corpus Christi procession at Churchill Downs, the site of last week’s 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby. During that summer event, the late Bishop Charles G. Maloney was always far away. The congregation was on the grandstand and bleacher side of the track, and the bishop was in the infield by the monstrance and altar. When I think about it, the only close encounter I had with a bishop was during the sacrament of confirmation.
Without sounding like the old man I must own up to be, maybe it’s just me, but today’s bishops seem more approachable and engaging. I can’t speak for all the bishops, but the ones in the Archdiocese of Atlanta certainly appear to fit that criterion.
From my observation it may be one of the most favorite parts of their job. It certainly stirs up a great deal of excitement among the students on the receiving end of a visit. During the April 29 Faith Rally at St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw, Bishop Luis Zarama was the main celebrant for the school Mass. After the liturgy Bishop Zarama visited a number of classes.
I followed him into Dominican Sister Grace Mary’s second grade class. As the students were enjoying snacks at their desk, he helped himself to various treats, popping a piece of fruit or a potato chip into his mouth to the surprise of some students, and sparking uproarious laughter among others. He struck up conversations with individual students at their desk, fielded questions from the class and even signed the cast of a student with a broken arm. One of the more touching moments was when some of the students made personal prayer requests to the bishop. Some went like this: Will you please pray for my grandfather who died? Please pray for my little brother!
For those second-graders, particularly the ones who had a personal face- to-face with the bishop, it will be a moment they always remember.