Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Lessons learned, looking to the future

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published March 8, 2015  | En Español

A year ago this month our Archdiocese found itself embroiled in a public controversy that confused, angered and embarrassed many of you—a tempest for which I was personally responsible. After agreeing to sell the former archbishop’s residence on West Wesley Road in Atlanta to the Cathedral of Christ the King to become its rectory, I then approved the construction of a new residence using the proceeds of that sale on property that the Archdiocese then owned on Habersham Road. Though honestly never intended to serve merely as one man’s living space, balanced against the many pressing needs of our Archdiocese the new residence proved too large and too costly. Upon additional extensive consultation with lay people and clergy, I subsequently made the decision in April to sell the Habersham property. I did so even though some people voiced strong contrary opinions.

While I have tried to keep you informed of the progress of the listing and sale of the Habersham Road property via The Georgia Bulletin, as your Archbishop I personally want to close the loop on this difficult chapter in the life of this wonderful local Church.

First, you should know that the Archdiocese sold the residence on Habersham Road for $2.6 million in late November 2014. Prior to that, last May we purchased a private house to serve as the archbishop’s residence in a subdivision not far from the Chancery in Smyrna for $440,000, and I have been living there ever since.

I am no longer able to host the types of large receptions at my home that I once did, but I have been regularly reminded by the people who enjoy attending those gatherings that they do so for the company, as do I, and not for the venue. Those events are now held at our Chancery, which is attractively constructed and appointed for such hospitality by using many of the items from the West Wesley residence.

During these past months I have received many warm and thoughtful expressions of support for me and for the actions that I took to resolve this situation. I cannot thank those wonderful people enough for their kindness and all of our folks for their ongoing support of the works of ministry and service both on the parish and archdiocesan levels. In fact, in spite of this controversy, our Archbishop’s Annual Appeal achieved its greatest success this past year—truly a tribute to the people in every community.

I stand recommitted by your confidence to continue to apply the lessons learned over the past twelve months to my life and ministry in our Archdiocese of Atlanta. I have been challenged in new ways by an increased level of candor and honesty in conversations with my staff and consultative groups, a frankness that—had I more actively sought and recognized it—might have prevented the situation last spring.

I rely on these lessons and even more on your prayers, as I consider the future of our Archdiocese of Atlanta, a future we have worked on together over the past 18 months in articulating the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan that will guide this local Church for the next five years.

What will drive us as we now implement our forthcoming Pastoral Plan will not be “What can we do?” but “What should we do?” Following the lead of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, we won’t justify by margins, but by mission.

The fundamental building blocks of our work as Church are our parishes, and the growth of the Church in north and middle Georgia has resulted in a constant need to open new ones or expand the ones we have. It can be an almost insurmountable challenge for a parish of lesser means to succeed until it has a place of its own in which to worship, and conversely it can be just as challenging for them to build a church until they have attained some measure of success. As St. Paul established in 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 by asking that local Church to assist the poor in Jerusalem, it is my intention to bundle the proceeds of the sale of the residence with funds from other sources to help build capacity in parishes who lack the ability to do so readily on their own. As those parishes succeed, they will slowly and deliberately replenish those funds so that other parish communities may benefit in the same way. It won’t be the Archbishop or the “Chancery” lending this hand up, but rather the generosity of the people of our archdiocesan family lifting up their brothers and sisters in faith in a new and innovative way.

This is but one example of the many exciting initiatives that are being designed in response to the needs identified during these intense months of consultation that will soon culminate in the promulgation of our Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan. I hope to offer my vision for the next five years in our Archdiocese of Atlanta just after Easter. The plan will require renewed commitments from all of us, renewed trust in each other, and more than anything, renewed faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

I firmly believe that every crisis is an opportunity to grow in faith and service, and I am energized by the way my Archdiocese—my family—has always rallied in support of one another, even in standing with your contrite Archbishop. I hope you’ll join me in praying for the success of the exciting new priorities that we together have identified for the future!