By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published September 4, 2015 | En Español
Near the end of a splendid dedication Mass of the stunningly beautiful new sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel in Woodstock last Saturday afternoon, Father Paul Flood whispered to me: “How many of these have you done?” It was an excellent question for me to consider last week especially since I had already celebrated both the dedication of the newly and handsomely renovated church of St. Andrew with its proud new steeple on Aug. 27 and previously that same day, I had participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new building at St. John the Evangelist Parish and School in Hapeville.
The Archdiocese is growing, and that growth is clearly reflected in the renovation of so many of our churches, and the building of new churches and parish facilities throughout the territory of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. This growth is the result of the extraordinary generosity and deep faith of our people—even during challenging financial times—and it is an affirmation of the devotion of the priests, deacons and lay staff members who serve them.
The folks at St. Andrew’s and St. Michael’s were brimming with joy and pride at the accomplishments that they had achieved—and rightfully so having worked so long to see it completed. The school community and the parish family of St. John the Evangelist were excited to know that this long-needed facility will soon enrich their services and development as a family of faith.
These events are very happy moments for the people of our parishes and for me personally to know that our folks are so dedicated to the growth of their parishes and schools.
After Saturday’s dedication ceremony in Woodstock, two young men—twins that I had confirmed a couple of years ago—approached me and asked if I would send a letter of recommendation on their behalf to Boston College where they are applying for the fall. I was happy to do so because these young men are actively engaged in their parish and quite enthusiastic about their faith. They felt close to their Archbishop and recalled some of the happy moments of their confirmation.
I could not tell you right now which of these two events was more fulfilling for me—the blessing of the new church or the encounter with these two fine young men, which meant so much to me and confirmed my sense of the growth of this parish and the development of faith in the lives of these two youths. Clearly they feel connected to the church, and they told me that’s why they want a Catholic college experience. That says a lot about the development of Catholicism in the South.
Buildings are important—vital and always necessary for the church’s growth and development—but the future of the faith rests with our young people, and when they want to engage the church in their development it speaks volumes about the hope that our faith must take in its tomorrow. I will happily write a warm and enthusiastic letter of recommendation for these young men even as I bask in what they will offer for our church’s tomorrow. Whether they are eventually admitted to Boston College or not, their enthusiasm for their Catholic faith was as glorious for me as is the beauty of the new church building in Woodstock.
So my ultimate response to Father Flood’s question about “how many times have you done this?” would have to be “not nearly often enough!”