Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen and Heard (September 28, 2006)

Published September 28, 2006

Msgr. Fennessey’s laughter could be heard throughout the dining hall! Msgr. Kiernan’s dazzling pink sweater brought him more than a little grief from his brother priests. And the international clerical tennis team spoke Spanish, Zulu, and English with a bit of a brogue!

Last Monday the Serrans of the Archdiocese of Atlanta hosted their annual Clergy Appreciation and Fun Day at Lake Lanier. It was a grand success. This splendid tradition allows a great many of our priests and Serrans to come together for laughter and a good time and serves as a way of saying thanks for all of the priestly ministry that these men provide for the Church in North Georgia. And our priests richly deserve this expression of gratitude and much more besides.

I thanked our Serrans at the beginning of the dinner, and I thanked them once again at the evening’s conclusion for hosting this wonderful event in honor of our priests. As I concluded my remarks, one of the Serrans told me, “You should rather thank the priests of the Archdiocese.” The wisdom of the suggestion was not lost on me as I knew that I would have ample opportunity to do just that during the next several days when the priests of the Archdiocese of Atlanta gathered with me for a Convocation. This event is a special time when all of the priests of the diocese were invited to spend time with me and with one another in prayer, fellowship and conversation about a great many issues.

We have not had a Convocation in many years, and this was the best attended one ever in our history. We spoke about the challenges that we all face in being a unified fraternity of priests. We are quite diverse in age, in background, in language, in racial and ethnic heritage. We are progressive in temperament and traditional in outlook. We are transplants from other parts of the country and from numerous other countries. We are members of religious congregations and diocesan clerics. In short, there are many distinguishing characteristics about us as priests. But we are all priests of Jesus Christ, and we are servants of this local Church. Our differences are very real and not likely to be negotiated away in the future. Yet our common Priesthood is a unifying force in all of our lives. We belong to the people of Atlanta because we first of all belong to Christ as His priests and brothers.

Convocations are still a novelty in most dioceses in the United States. Yet most local churches have adopted them as a way to bring priests and bishops together to focus upon important themes and to help strengthen the bonds that unite us. I am especially grateful to our Continuing Education Committee under the spirited leadership of Father Jim Schillinger for organizing this Convocation. Jim was the driving force behind this effort, and he was supported by our Priests Council and through the generous financial and professional donations of a number of individuals and organizations.

Thanks to all who helped our priests, Archbishop-emeritus John Donoghue and me to enjoy our time together. Michael Alexander (Georgia Bulletin staff photographer) took a group photograph—at the original recommendation of Father Victor Galier who proposed that we have a picture taken of the Presbyterate in Atlanta. It was a fantastic idea and as the saying goes—one picture is worth a thousand words!