Published April 28, 2005
The Catholic presence in North Georgia, like any other diocese, is more often than not found in parish settings, churches, schools and parish centers. Then there are the occasional monasteries, hospitals and convents that house some of the most important servant ministers of the Church. The Church is found in the administrative offices that coordinate the work of the Church throughout these 69 counties in North Georgia.
But these official structures and institutions are not the only places in which a Catholic presence is seen. The Catholic Church is also found in many social outreach locations. We are also found in soup kitchens and nursing homes, in day-care centers and in hospice settings.
As I continue to make my way throughout the Archdiocese visiting as many institutions as I can during these early months, I have found two in particular that have touched my heart. The Hawthorne Dominicans have run a cancer-care facility in the Archdiocese since 1939. They are currently neighbors to Turner Field, and at that location they welcome cancer patients who are in the final stages of their illness. Most of the patients are not Catholic and neither are most of the employees. However the entire place is deeply and obviously Catholic. It is Catholic not merely because of the lovely little chapel there, alongside the crucifixes and religious art throughout the facility and the sisters in habits who grace its halls. The cancer home is Catholic because its work and very reason for being is to care for the very least among His Brothers and Sisters. It is Catholic because there is a profound commitment to the poor, and the Gospel is always alive in such an environment.
A similar institution is the Gift of Grace House AIDS/HIV hospice staffed by the Missionaries of Charity. Although this hospice is a newer Catholic presence in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, established only in 1994 by Archbishop John F. Donoghue, it is also a profoundly Catholic presence in our community—and once again not because most of the residents are Catholics themselves. Christ’s presence is so clearly the focal point of this home that it could be nothing other than an expression of the Catholic Church in service to those who are weak and needy.
Both of these institutions depend almost exclusively upon the support that they receive from people throughout the Archdiocese. The sisters continue their mission through the kindness of people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who volunteer at, donate to, and pray for the success of these two ventures. These two outreach ministries provide a proud Catholic presence for many people who may not know any other expression of Catholicism than the kindness and comfort that they receive in these two places.
The gentle and compassionate face of Christ is found in both of these places as the Church ministers to those who have so very little. Under such circumstances, the Catholic Church is clearly visible through the actions of those women religious and the many generous volunteers who assist them in this Gospel work of Love.
As I continue to visit the many places where the Catholic Church is thriving in North Georgia, I am proud to find communities like the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home and the Gift of Grace House, which put into practice the rich legacy of love that will always be an indelible sign of the presence of Christ Jesus and the Catholic Church that He founded to make Him present in Word and Sacrament and in such acts of Love!