Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Always close to my heart

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published April 18, 2019  | En Español

“We’ll miss you!” Those comforting words have touched my heart repeatedly since the announcement of my appointment as the Archbishop of Washington was revealed on April 4. I have used those same words to express my own feelings toward the people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. We have grown comfortable with each other over the past 14 years.  It is a comfort that came from our sacramental bond, our common faith and our union in social service outreach projects during these years. We have come to know and to love one another, and that has established a closeness between us that I found as a gift from God himself.

We’ve faced difficulties together during these past 14 years. You have witnessed my flaws and I have come to know your forgiveness. We have taken pride in our amazing growth and then worried about how to care adequately for our increasing population. We have welcomed 70 new priests and commended others to the Lord’s kingdom of peace. Our Eucharistic Congress has continued to be a source of spiritual energy and joy for this local church, as have our Rites of Election over these years.

Above and beyond those public activities, it has been the personal encounters that we have shared—a warm celebration of the sacrament of confirmation that gave me direct contact with our kids—the baptisms, marriages and hospital visits that reminded me of why I became a priest in the first place, and the joy to be found in those encounters.

I recall with deep emotion my installation as archbishop at the Georgia International Convention Center, where I was overwhelmed by your warmth on that first day of my ministry in north and central Georgia. I have enjoyed the cookouts with our priests and seminarians, the many trips to the parishes well beyond the metro area that reminded me of the territorial vastness of this local church and the vibrancy of faith to be found in small towns. I will miss the beauty of the Georgia mountains and the great length and warmth of Georgia summers.

There are so many events and moments that I will miss from my service here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. But above all, I will miss you the people—you are the church far more precious than the structures wherein you worship and learn, beyond the programs that you support and organize. I will continue to pray for you and I ask that you keep me in your prayers.

As you await a new archbishop, I ask the Lord to send you a shepherd after the heart of Christ to serve you with joy. He will be a most fortunate man and you deserve nothing less than the best that God can provide. With a grateful heart, I remain filled with the images and memories of your goodness. I have seen and heard a lot over these years, and those memories I will carry with me to Washington on all the days that the Lord will grant me.  My dear friends, may the Lord grant you a blessed Easter season. I will always hold you close in my heart.