Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Good Friday Event Highlights Pain of Poverty

By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published April 15, 2004

At a neighborhood housing site of a vacant lot littered with rubbish on Edgewood and Daniel streets, during a Good Friday observance of the Urban Stations of the Cross through downtown Atlanta, Miles McCabe of Habitat for Humanity spoke on the “nails of oppression” driving out the poor by gentrification.

At this new stop on the annual pilgrimage participants stood, reflecting on Jesus’ nailing to the cross, at the dirty lot, where ahead they could see condominiums under construction and behind them poor project homes, soon to be displaced. McCabe listed several key characteristics of resurgent gentrification in Atlanta, such as how today public subsidies such as federal block grants are funding projects that often result in homes priced in the $200,000-$300,000 range rather than that of affordable housing. In the past seven years, the Atlanta Housing Authority has taken down approximately 5,000 affordable housing units that have not been replaced, he said.

The ecumenical event, sponsored by Catholic Social Services’ Parish and Community Ministry and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ domestic anti-poverty and social justice program, drew some 125 people on the sunny spring day including 46 youthful participants from the Korean Martyrs Church in Doraville.

Sister Joyce Ann Hertzig, OP, CSS parish social ministry coordinator, spoke on the value of the annual event in being a walking the Way of the Cross and Christ’s Passion as it is lived by God’s people today, while providing an educational awareness of how much the issues impact and impoverish people and time to pray for their resolution. The Stations of the Cross is a Catholic tradition to remember the suffering of Jesus on the way to Calvary. “Thus it is a way to involve body, mind and spirit in the Christ’s Way of the Cross. The value is that we do not dismiss the reality of pain of poverty but instead recognize its many causes and get the hearts of people ready to act for just systems and practices. Each year there are folks who attend because someone told them about it from last year.”

At each Station, facts were read about the particular issue and attendees participated in silent and prayerful moments, a Scripture reading and song.

The event began at the Capitol in downtown Atlanta with a reflection by Jim Powers of Pax Christi Atlanta on Jesus’ condemnation for speaking the truth to power.

For the first Station it was reported that the United States in 2005 plans discretionary $421 billion in spending for the military, which is more than the next 25 countries in the world combined.

The group following the Capitol reflection then crossed the street to Central Presbyterian Church, where Rev. Avery Jones, representing CSS’s One Church One Inmate ministry to ex-offenders, reflected on the theme of Jesus taking up his cross on the challenges faced by people after incarceration. Currently over 208,000 persons in Georgia are on probation, parole or in state prisons.

Around the corner at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Irene Miranda of the archdiocesan HIV/AIDS ministry, marking Jesus’ first fall, spoke on the critical need for support for those HIV positive, as now over 900,000 people are living with HIV in the United States. Many AIDS ministers held up placards and raised banners with names of loved ones and presented a cross with a red ribbon attached to continue to carry on the Way of the Cross.

Before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building, for the Station on Jesus meeting his mother, the group reflected on how Latino families are separated out of necessity by miles, agony and comfort. Latinos make up 37.4 million of the U.S. population, and an estimated 300,000 Latinos live in metro Atlanta.

In front of the Department of Family and Children Services, pastor Chad Hale of the Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative spoke on hunger and assistance for access to food, marking the Station on how Simon of Cyrene aided Jesus. The need is pressing in Atlanta, which has the fifth highest rate of child poverty in cities over 100,000.

As the pilgrims made their way to Hurt Park downtown, Episcopal minister Rev. Woody Bartlett of Georgia Interfaith Power & Light reflected on environmental justice for the Station on Veronica wiping the face of Jesus. He noted how any interaction that people have with each other and the earth leaves its prints as he reminded them of the earth’s cry for justice.

At the American Friends Society, Sean Tenney of the American Friends Service Committee spoke on Jesus’ second fall and the falls that exist in the Middle East peace process. He spoke of peace building efforts in the Southeast. “War is not the Answer” signs hung in the building windows; on the other side of the building was the large “Freedom Quilt Mural.”

At Dobbs Plaza, Glory Kilanko of Women’s Watch Afrika spoke on globalization and its effect on women, to coincide with Jesus speaking with the women of Jerusalem. A sculptured image was the background for her presentation, where the open eyes peered through the message. The program noted that half the world, three billion people, live on less than $2 a day and 50,000 women and children are trafficked to the United States annually for sexual exploitation. “Globalization threatens the human rights of indigenous peoples, including their aspirations for self-determination. Exploration and colonization have led to rapid appropriation of indigenous peoples’ lands and natural resources and the destruction of their sciences, ideas, arts and cultures,” she proclaimed. Then she closed with a recorded song from Tanzania, “Peace to All the People of the Earth.”

At the Georgia Justice Project, David Rocchio, GJP development director, spoke on rehabilitation and related struggles, marking Jesus’ third fall. Before Café 458, speaker Brian Freel, co-founder of the Seamless Garment Catholic Worker in Marietta, shared the Seamless Garment Ethic. He began with “animals don’t wear clothes.” “Jesus is stripped so that he is humiliated, dehumanized, and treated like an animal.” The Seamless Garment Ethic expresses the belief that human life is too sacred to be taken on the battlefields, in the abortion clinics, on death rows, in hospitals and nursing homes, and in the slums of the inner cities. God is pro-life in the fullest sense of the phrase, he said. The program cited the facts that the death penalty is legal in 38 states and Georgia had over 34,000 abortions in 2002.

At Ebenezer Baptist Church, Justice Schunior of the Farm Laborers Organizing Committee spoke on Jesus’ death and the struggle of migrant workers. Georgia has the third fastest growing Latino population in the country. Down the street at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Mary Jane Cooper and Will VanNess of the Our Lady of Lourdes social action committee reflected on Jesus’ removal from the cross and on the living wage.

The service ended with Father John Adamski reflecting on Christ’s burial and his challenge today at the Martin Luther King, Jr. gravesite across from Our Lady of Lourdes. He asked participants “Are you ready to be raised up?” It was noted that 12.7 percent of Georgia’s population of 8.3 million live in poverty.

Soulful songs and hymns during the event included “Standin’ in the Need of Prayer,” “This Pretty Planet,” “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “We Shall Overcome.”

Sister Hertzig said that related upcoming events include Catholic Charities’ National Parish Social Ministry Regional Assembly to be held April 23-25 in Portsmouth, Va., with the theme “Being a Prophetic Voice, Live a Prophetic Faith.” Others on the planning team have been the “JustFaith” program, Roundable Association and diocesan social action directors. Simone Blanchard, CSS’ director of parish and community ministry programs, has been on the planning committee and will be a presenter, and Sister Hertzig, Ann McCabe of Sts. Peter Claver School and Bob Zimmer of Immaculate Heart of Mary Social Action Committee will also attend from the archdiocese. To register for the assembly, call (404) 885-7208 or write for more information.