Published March 22, 2007
Last Friday our Cathedral hosted the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Mass, which filled the pews with a dominant green hue and bright smiles that assured us that the sons and daughters of Eire were in fine form for the imminent feast day. The reception brought soda bread, green doughnuts, and the laughter and dancing of Irish children as the capstone of a splendid celebration. Later that same evening I was privileged to host nearly a hundred of our priests at my home where they enjoyed each other’s company, told more than a few tall tales and filled that residence with a spirit of joy that might have seemed out of place during the season of Lent except for the exemption that Patrick gladly offered to those assembled! Annually, Lent pauses in order for the Church to gives thanks for the gift that Patrick is for all people—and in a special way for the Church in Georgia that owes so much to Ireland and to her children and to their Faith.
Saturday continued the festivities on the proper day for the saint with the AACCW (Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women) hosting its annual recognition day Mass and reception at St. Joseph’s in Marietta, honoring many women and young people whose service enriches our parishes and gives reasons aplenty for us to praise God for them and for their dedication to this local Church. Again, seasonal purple bowed in deference to green as we recognized all of the treasures that we currently enjoy in the Archdiocese of Atlanta that are either directly or indirectly the results of so many Irish priests and Religious who helped to establish and continue to serve our parishes and institutions of today. Yesterday and today both came together and pointed to a very hopeful future for all of us.
I left those festivities in Marietta earlier than I would have preferred in order to catch a flight to Chicago where I was privileged to have been invited to celebrate the 5 p.m. Saturday evening Mass as part of the centenary anniversary observance of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Glenview, Ill., my first parish assignment as a priest. The past came together with the present once again as I visited with so many people that I first met 34 years ago as a newly ordained priest.
Two of our college seminarians who are studying at St. Joseph’s College Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago made a surprise visit at that Mass and provided the perfect link between Glenview and Atlanta in my life. The Irish dancers in the parish performed at the conclusion of the evening’s reception reminding me once again of the rich heritage of the Emerald Isle that has touched my heart from the very beginning of my Priesthood. I quietly wept a bit as I prayed during that Mass for the repose of the soul of my first pastor—Myles Patrick McDonnell, who was mentor, father, exemplar and friend to me.
Yesterday and today came together several times in my life this past weekend, and both converged in such a sincere prayer of gratitude. Atlanta, Chicago and Ireland all assembled together in memories, happiness and hope. I suspect the festivity that took place in all three locations provided similar experiences for many of you. St. Patrick, pray for us!