By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published June 6, 2013
I made my fourth pastoral visit to the Catholic community of St. Helena in Clayton this past Sunday to bless and dedicate their new pastoral center, which is truly beautiful! I used my GPS to chart my course from Atlanta to Clayton, and I now realize that I should have simply asked the folks who make that trip to the Georgia mountains regularly about the shortest course to take. Occasionally GPS systems have a mind of their own and take “the road less traveled” as mine did on Sunday morning. There was a blessing in this technological snafu since I approached Clayton by some back roads that I had never before used. I saw a portion of the Archdiocese that would ordinarily not have been on my radar.
My Sunday morning trip reminded me that the Archdiocese of Atlanta is indeed a territorially diverse community. While the overwhelming majority of our people live in the metropolitan environment that surrounds the city of Atlanta, we also have an enormous territory that is truly rural, agricultural and far-flung in the regional frontiers. The farms and small towns that are part of the Archdiocese of Atlanta reminded me of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill., which is primarily a rural diocese blessed with farms and ranches that produce the harvests that feed this nation and many other people around the world.
When we speak of our diversity as an archdiocese, we often tend to focus on the cultural, ethnic and racial makeup of our people. We might even think of the diverse generations or languages that we represent, but we are also diverse in our territorial variations. This vital characteristic of the complexity of our local Church is vividly present during the Eucharistic Congresses that have become so much a part of our heritage. The Eucharistic Congresses bring together a huge assortment of our people—many of them wearing native garb, singing traditional songs and reflecting the wondrous display of our international complexion. My Sunday excursion was an important reminder for me that we are also rural and urban, small town and metropolitan in our composition.
Yet the one Eucharist that we share holds all of this diversity perfectly together and indeed renders it a grace. We break One Bread and drink from One Cup that makes us all one in Christ. This has always been a key theme to our Eucharistic Congresses and an abiding grace for this entire archdiocesan family. Whether we celebrate Mass in a small country parish or one of our mega-communities in metro Atlanta, the same Lord comes to us and unites us with each other in Himself.
The Lord remains present in the Eucharist in all of the churches throughout the Archdiocese, and in that presence He invites us to see our oneness in Him. Whether a parish holds Eucharistic adoration for only an hour each month or is fortunate enough to have perpetual adoration, the same Lord remains present for all those who come to Him in prayer. As St. Paul reminded the Corinthians and all of us as well: “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Cor 10:17)
Our unity is guaranteed in Christ. As we concluded our Eucharistic Congress this past weekend—and I made my unfamiliar approach to Clayton—I could not but help to give thanks and praise to God for the wondrous spirit of unity that we in the Archdiocese of Atlanta have come to experience because of the Eucharistic Lord who holds us together in Himself and turns our differences into blessings.