By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY, Archbishop of Atlanta | Published October 16, 2008
My appointment calendar is seldom thematic in its arrangement! I generally go about events that are pretty much helter-skelter in their organization—a school Mass, a meeting with the Finance Council, a visit to Jackson prison. This week, however, there was a very distinct spirit in my schedule—she was the Mother of God. October is the month of the Holy Rosary and like the month of May, Catholics everywhere seem to be drawn to the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Deacon Bert Berding came to my office over a year ago to seek my support for this year’s Rosary Rally, an annual occurrence which was once a huge and highly publicized event for the small but faithful band of Catholics here in North Georgia. He could not conceal his disappointment that this particular tradition had changed and diminished so over the years. The great numbers of Catholics who once assembled in October to pray the rosary had decreased significantly over the years. I tried to assure him that this single event had been replaced by other religious expressions that kept the Mother of God ever before the people of this local church. The Vietnamese have brought their profound love for Mary as Our Lady of Lavang, the Mexicans bring us La Guadalupana, the French Our Lady of Lourdes, the Poles Our Lady of Czestochowa and many others as well, all with their unique religious piety and devotions.
This past Saturday at our Rosary Rally, which was hosted at St. Pius X Parish in Conyers, it was very obvious that the numerous new arrivals to the Archdiocese of Atlanta have carried with them their Marian traditions. The rosary was prayed in five different languages with the first part being offered by members of various language groups and the second part generally responded to in English. We blessed a new Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe at the parish and sang some of the wonderful hymns of the Mexican community. It was as joyful an event as I have encountered as the Archbishop, and I suspect Archbishop Donoghue, who was also in attendance, would agree.
No, it might not have been like the earlier traditions of the Rosary Rally, but it was a clear indication that the people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta have not lessened in our love for the Mother of God and many, in fact, had brought to this local church many customs and traditions that had originated in the places from which our people hail.
Later that same evening, I celebrated the renewal of the promises of the Marian Servants, another new movement of lay spirituality that has taken hold here in the U.S. A number of families gathered at St. Benedict’s to pledge themselves anew to living their baptismal promises within the home, parish and community with deeper love and devotion following the model of St. Louis de Montfort, a 18th-century priest known widely for his Marian devotion.
Then on Sunday evening St. Jude Parish hosted the first Atlanta celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Aparecida, the Brazilian Madonna. The church was filled to overflowing with our Brazilian neighbors who brought with them the image of Our Blessed Mother under her title of Aparecida. The best part (in my humble estimation) and the most promising sign was the presence of so many of their children, who were celebrating their splendid heritage and who serve as a hopeful indication that this new festival will take its place within the heart of our Archdiocese of Atlanta for future generations who will profess their own special love for the Mother of God.