By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published September 27, 2012
There was such obvious enthusiasm at St. Benedict’s for the celebration of their Silver Jubilee festivities and the reopening of the church, which had undergone a renovation of the sanctuary during the last few months. This wonderfully flourishing parish is only 25 years old; however, its astonishing growth is nothing less than amazing!
As I walked into the bustling atrium of the church, I encountered a gentleman who told me that we were born on the same day in the same year—he in New York City and I in Chicago! Therefore this December 7 we will both turn 65 years of age. I should have asked him if he had received as many application brochures for retirement benefits as I have recently.
The folks at St. Benedict’s were excited about turning 25—but where is the excitement about turning 65?
We Americans do tend to highlight and perhaps to romanticize youth while we may have an uneasy relationship with growing older. Jack Benny insisted on being 39 for more than 39 years as he demonstrated a reluctance to cross the Rubicon of 40! There are some folks who may demure when they face the great episodes of planning for retirement, being referred to as a senior citizen, being called grandpa or grandma, or even acknowledging a few uninvited gray hairs.
Yet each age that we reach brings its own grace. For the 25-year-olds, most of their lives will lie ahead of them, and for the 65-year-olds, most of their lives lie behind them, but God surely will be and has been present in each moment. In our youth we anticipate God’s gifts that will come our way while those of us at a later moment in life praise God for all that He has done in our lives. Each moment of life is a grace.
Last Saturday evening the Alumni Association of Our Lady of Lourdes School gathered to observe the 100th anniversary of the establishment of that beloved institution. While the most senior alumni in attendance represented classes that graduated in the 1930s, everyone rejoiced in the entire heritage of that school, founded to educate African-American youngsters here in Atlanta with the strong assistance of none other than St. Katharine Drexel herself. Many heartfelt tributes were made that evening honoring the sisters, the priests and the laity who labored generously and effectively for the education of the students who were privileged to attend that school. A hundred years ago, in the face of powerful segregated opposition, the founders and foundresses of Our Lady of Lourdes were bold in their plans and the members of the Our Lady of Lourdes School Alumni Association were bold in promising that the legacy of that institution will live on in them, in their children and grandchildren through the values and the principles that they will live and communicate. Even though Our Lady of Lourdes School closed its doors in 2001, its spirit and heritage were very much alive last Saturday evening.
Institutions approach age differently than do individuals: 100 is more noble than 25 and 200 is more precious still than 100. Institutions live on in the people who have been inspired and formed by those institutions. St. Benedict is youthful as a parish, and the venerable memory of Our Lady of Lourdes School still enflames the hearts of those who attended that establishment. We are a better archdiocese because of the legacy of Our Lady of Lourdes School and the hope and potential of St. Benedict Parish’s promise to provide for our tomorrows.