Published January 19, 2006
This past Tuesday, I held an interview with a local newspaper reporter. The predictable topic was a reflection on my first year as Archbishop of Atlanta—the high and the low points. I want to share with you, even before that article appears, some thoughts on that theme.
This has been a wonderful year in my life, one that I could never have foreseen as even possible. You all have been extravagant in your welcome and with your warm embrace of friendship.
Even the challenges that have come have been life-giving for me. We are a growing diocese, and we need to plan for that growth. We need to make Catholic education more affordable for our families and more accessible throughout the Archdiocese wherever possible.
We need to tell our priests that we love them, we value them, and we support them. I have come to love the Atlanta priests dearly and with very good reason! We are fortunate to have a fine cadre of priests, diocesan and religious, who work hard to serve the Church. They are generous and enthusiastic. They make mistakes—as does their archbishop—but they try to do the best job that they can as servants of the Gospel and dispensers of the Sacramental life of the Church.
During the past year, I have visited 79 of the 95 parishes and missions of the Archdiocese. I look forward to getting to the remaining 16 in the near future. I have attempted to visit the college ministry sites as well. I have found great inspiration in our Eucharistic Congress, through the religious devotions of our people, and in the social ministries that abound in our region. I have been edified at the generosity of our folks in supporting the ordinary needs of our parishes and the Archdiocese. I have been overwhelmed at the charity extended in the extraordinary outreach to the poor and to those whose lives have been so impacted by the hurricanes that ravished our nation.
I have come to admire and cherish the work of our permanent deacons and their families. These ministers of charity are a vitally important community of servants for this local Church.
The rich ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity of our diocese is a source of sheer delight for me—even as we struggle to provide adequate pastoral care for all those who have special language and cultural needs. The multicultural and multilingual nature of our Archdiocese provides an energy as much as a challenge for us all.
The young people of the Archdiocese have seized their own special place in my heart, and they are secure therein. These youngsters hold such promise for the future of this local Church that none of us can possibly do enough to encourage them, to guide them, to care for them, and, of course, to love them. We have terrific kids, and they deserve our best efforts to strengthen their Catholic faith and to prepare them for leadership in the society that lies ahead.
This past year has seen many significant changes in the administration of the Archdiocese. Some long-time Chancery officials have retired; others have changed jobs; still others have been given different responsibilities. Organizations always go through changes, and the Church is no different in that regard. There are new faces at the Catholic Center, and I welcome them. I now have a better grasp on the workings of the Archdiocese, but I also have much more to learn.
This past year has seen the death of a much-loved Pope and the election of a man of extraordinary talent and expertise to succeed him. We ordained a fine new priest, and death has claimed three of our beloved retired priests. Our seminarians continue to thrive, and I struggle to come to know them better and more personally.
I am most grateful for the new friends who have entered my life—clerical, religious, and lay. You all are the special reason for my great joy during this first year. Archbishop Donoghue is an esteemed older brother and colleague, and my admiration and respect for him has only grown.
All in all, as Frank Sinatra once sang, “It was a very good year!” Thank you!