Published February 9, 2006
There are some weeks when there are just too many events to grasp. This past week was one of them.
The mood of the city was heavy as people from all walks of life recalled the passing of Coretta Scott King. She was an icon of a woman whose contributions both to this community and to the nation were enormous. Her death was the finale of another chapter in the rich legacy of the civil rights struggle that is so indelibly linked to Atlanta. May the Lord grant her light, happiness, and peace.
Like most of you, her death brought a flood of memories. I was 7 years old when Rosa Parks began the famous bus boycott. I was 20 years old when Dr. King was assassinated. Thus my entire childhood was framed by the events of the civil rights movement. With her death, in a real sense, another childhood chapter has been concluded. But there are still lessons from the civil rights movement that have not been concluded. We must remember that injustice has a profound impact on every one—on those who are the victims of injustice and those who act unjustly. The outcome of the civil rights movement was a liberation for all of society—black people and white people. We now stand at a moment when our immigrant brothers and sisters, those with and without documentation, are being singled out for unjust if not punitive treatment. Surely their plight is merely the next chapter of the struggle for justice in today’s world.
This week, we also have 15 new deacons in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, as I had the privilege of ordaining my first class of permanent deacons last Saturday. The huge numbers of deacons and priests who attended the celebration was impressive. It is an indication of the camaraderie that our deacons and priests share and a wonderful sign of the spirit of fraternity among the ordained ministers of this local Church. These new deacons will be serving in the parishes throughout North Georgia and engaged in the ministry of charity and sacraments.
I welcome them and congratulate them and their families. The new deacons have completed a five-year program of formation and are ready to begin what I pray will be a long and successful ministry to God’s people.
Before 1970 most people had little personal knowledge of deacons. Unless a son or a brother was studying to become a priest, most people never met a deacon since deacons were largely confined to seminaries where they were completing their last years of formation for the priesthood. Since 1970, deacons have abounded and can be found in most dioceses in the United States and in many other nations. In this archdiocese, we have a fine group of deacons who exercise a very important service in this local Church.
Deacons are, first and foremost, sacramental ministers of charity, and their primary field of service is in caring for the poor, prisoners, the sick, the aged, the young, the immigrant and all those who might slip from the Church’s purview. I welcome this new group of Church ministers, and above all I welcome the good work that they will be able to accomplish for the Church mission.
This was a very intense week. It was a week that was filled with sorrow and hope, with sadness and great joy. It was a time to reflect on yesterday and to anticipate tomorrow.
We will probably all think about the events of this past week for a long time to come.