Published January 5, 2006
During the course of the past year, I heard many of the stories of the Faith legacy of our Archdiocese. In various situations, people have shared with me some of the rich history of this local Church. A lovely lady from the Cathedral parish gave me a book several months ago about Archbishop Hallinan. Our former archivist has shared with me some of the stories of the first institutions of our diocese. One of our prominent Catholic families recently sent me a book detailing their family history, which is deeply intertwined with the growth and the development of the Church in Atlanta. All of these kind gifts have helped me better to appreciate the generous heritage of Faith that has laid the foundation for who we now are as the Archdiocese of Atlanta. There is much more that I am sure that I will learn in the months and years that lie ahead.
During 2006, we will celebrate our 50th jubilee as a diocese. We were officially established as the Diocese of Atlanta on July 2, 1956 (we became an Archdiocese in 1962). We are still a young diocese by comparison to many others in the United States and very young when considering some of the ancient Catholic dioceses throughout the world. Fifty years, nonetheless, is a significant period of time and one during which many wonderful people and events have marked our heritage. During the course of this year, we shall have a number of celebrations that will mark this jubilee. Rather than have one big event, I thought that providing many different opportunities to highlight the various dimensions of service and communities would be a more appropriate and a more convenient way to linger over the wonderful history that is ours as the Archdiocese of Atlanta. More details of these celebrations will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.
Last Tuesday morning, I participated in an Interfaith Prayer Service to mark the inauguration of the second term for Atlanta’s mayor, Shirley Franklin. It was held in one of the historic African-American churches in the city, First Congregational. The pictures in the lobby of the church hall told a proud story of the faith of the community that worships there. The church was begun by freed slaves almost 150 years ago. The pictures of some of the early members of the church bespoke a proud and deeply religious heritage. History is an important source of pride for all people.
At the conclusion of that prayer service, Ambassador Andrew Young and I spoke about the friendship that Archbishop Paul Hallinan had with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Before Dr. King traveled to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, he visited Archbishop Hallinan who was in the hospital suffering from the early stages of the illness that would soon claim his life. Those two friends had known each other for a long time and had shared in the religious coalition that had been forged during the Civil Rights struggle. According to Ambassador Young, when Dr. King was about to leave, Archbishop Hallinan offered him his blessing and then asked for Dr. King’s blessing in return. These two Christian leaders invoked God’s blessing on one another. Within that gesture of fellowship and personal esteem, they cemented an important dimension of our common legacy of ecumenical and interfaith collaboration.
There are so many touching moments that belong to our history and that represent the wonderful heritage that we share. During 2006, I look forward to learning more about that history and giving thanks to God for what has been and for what will be!