By KAREN VOGTNER, Special Contributor | Published January 13, 2005
What a pleasure and honor it is to write words of gratitude for Archbishop John F. Donoghue.
As a Catholic school principal, I marvel at all that he has accomplished during his tenure here in Atlanta. Under his leadership, six new archdiocesan schools and several private Catholic schools opened their doors, providing new opportunities for many students to receive Catholic education throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta. In addition, through the capital campaign, “Building the Church of Tomorrow,” he ensured an ongoing source of funding via an endowment fund to help families who cannot afford the full cost of tuition. In a time when so many Catholic schools and parishes are closing all across our nation, it is a blessing to see the expansion of our Catholic schools and growth of our Catholic population here in Atlanta.
Archbishop Donoghue promotes lifelong learning and recognizes the importance of providing spiritual development for all age groups. Programs such as The Edge, XLT, LifeTeen, Spirit and Truth, young adult ministry and various adult education programs have enriched the spiritual experiences that are promoted at our Catholic schools and parishes.
One of my first encounters with Archbishop Donoghue was an invitation from him asking for input from all principals concerning the restructuring of Catholic schools in the archdiocese. He was very open and eager to receive our suggestions and recommendations. He responded positively to the principals’ recommendations to restore site-based management to the schools. This allowed each school to foster a unique mission while universally focusing on our Catholic faith and rich Catholic traditions. He centralized areas like human resources and curriculum planning, which benefited every Catholic school and parish. He instituted policies to ensure the safety of our children. He hired competent leadership in the Office of Catholic Schools, which fostered an atmosphere of support and accountability and provided avenues of communication among all departments.
In every classroom at our school, alongside the school’s mission, hangs my favorite picture of Archbishop Donoghue. He is pictured among the students from many different countries, clothed in their native dress. You can barely see him in the back row among the mass of children. The photo represents to me how he has served the people of the archdiocese, often working diligently behind the scenes, and always pointing us to the central component of our faith that unifies us all—the Eucharist. He does all of this in such a humble way, never seeking glory or recognition.
Perhaps the most significant accomplishment of Archbishop Donoghue has been the success of the Eucharistic Congress. Recognizing the importance of educating our youth to the real and true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, he began promoting perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the archdiocese. Through education, leadership and with the help of many volunteers, people responded. What the archbishop started, with humble beginnings, grew into a wonderful expression of the love for Jesus that has filled a convention center annually for the past several years. Thousands of children and teens from schools and parishes, as well as adults from all over the United States, have attended the Eucharistic Congress. Powerful visual images from the last Eucharistic Congress remain within my heart: hundreds of children worshiping, singing and learning about God’s great love for them; thousands of people on their knees in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; hundreds of priests at Mass extending their arms at the moment of consecration as the Eucharist was elevated; and a sea of banners from every school, parish and spiritual community within the Archdiocese of Atlanta. A true sense of the universal Catholic Church was celebrated that day and continues with each Mass we attend.
I thank you, Archbishop Donoghue, for your faithful service to all of us in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. I will remember you as a good and faithful servant of the Lord, a supporter of Catholic education, and a dedicated, faith-filled Shepherd to the Catholics of Atlanta. Thank you for sharing your great love of Jesus and for inspiring devotion to the real and true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. May God bless you always.
Karen Vogtner is the principal of St. John the Evangelist School, Hapeville.