Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Local church reflects worldwide growth

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published August 20, 2015  | En Español

During the past few weeks, several media outlets have turned their attention to our rapid and expansive growth. Our Pastoral Plan is designed to help us address some of the challenges of a growing and expanding Catholic presence here in north and central Georgia. As you may have read, the American South in general is experiencing significant growth among Catholics. What a blessing it is to face, but like any blessing, we also have challenges as we try to provide worship space, clergy and services for this exploding number of Catholics.

Last week, I received a copy of the latest CARA Report (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate), Vol. 21 No. 1, which provided me with some interesting demographic data on the numbers of Catholics worldwide and where significant growth is now occurring. While Europe and Latin America remain the largest population hubs for Catholicism, Africa, Asia and Oceania are displaying the greatest numeric growth and development. Since 1980 Africa has experienced nearly a fourfold increase of Catholics. Asia has just about doubled its number of Catholics, as has Oceania.

The Holy Spirit is clearly at work in the success of the evangelization of these regions. But just like the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the increase in numbers of Catholics in those places is putting a strain on the numbers of clergy and religious available to serve them and facilities accessible to welcome them. Pope Francis has repeatedly called the Church to make room for all of her children—to open wide the doors of the Church for everyone.

I recently received a full rush of just how the growth of the Church in north Georgia reflects that same worldwide increase. On Saturday morning I offered the Cathedral Mass with a larger-than-usual 8:10 a.m. congregation on the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother—including a couple of happy gentlemen whose attire suggested that they were headed for the links at the end of Mass after they had honored Mary on her feast. Later in the afternoon I joined the Indian community that gathered at St. Patrick’s Parish to celebrate the 69th anniversary of their national independence on August 15, also on the solemn feast of Mary’s Assumption. (The Pakistani community had rejoiced in its independence the day before on August 14.) The event brought together a wonderful assembly of people from South India to rejoice together in the richness of their cultures and friendship.

St. Patrick’s is a community in Norcross with a long-established tradition of bringing peoples together in prayer and fellowship. The Fransalians were the founding priests who helped to establish that parish, and their presence at the celebration and their ongoing ministries in the archdiocese are still gratefully reflected in the heritage of this parish and a number of other local parishes. The Missionaries of Charity joined us for the celebration and brought a visible reminder of the missionary zeal of Blessed Mother Teresa among the peoples of India and here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Sunday, I had the privilege of celebrating the installation ceremony of Father John Howren as the new pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceville. That wonderfully diverse community pulled out all of the stops to welcome Father Howren by bringing together the Anglo, Hispanic, Pan-African and Haitian parishioners in festive garb and song. The Mass was simply splendid and reflected both the warmth and the unity of the parish—it was the Church at her very best.

Our Catholic Church is truly universal, and her contemporary growth is reflective of that reality in ways that enrich us all. It continues the apostolic development that began at Pentecost and has continued throughout the ages as cultures and peoples have been welcomed and honored within the heart of the Church. We here in the archdiocese are the beneficiaries of the growth that is both universal and local—may God be praised