Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Services Begin With Archbishop Speaking To His Priests

By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published January 20, 2005

In his opening words to the priests of the archdiocese, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said that this was a time for hope and promised to work with them in collaboration and respect and to offer them the love of a bishop for his priests.

Acknowledging that the welcoming of a new archbishop has its awkwardness “for you and for the man chosen to be Shepherd, Pastor, and Brother to you,” the new archbishop told the assembled priests that he was filled “with an eager desire to begin this new mission and this moment in my life and yours.”

Speaking at vespers Jan. 16 at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, he said that although they were for the most part strangers to one another, they had in common what was most important: “We are priests of Jesus Christ, servant ministers of the Church, believers in the Gospel, disciples of the One who came to serve rather than to be served.”

“We are priests and bishop about to begin a new chapter in our common life,” he continued. “There is reason for hope. There is reason for optimism.”

Calling hope the virtue “that the world and our Church needs more than others at this moment,” Archbishop Gregory said hope does not pretend, does not close its eyes to the past, does not forget the lessons of yesterday, and does not disappoint.

“Priests and bishop of Atlanta bring our hopes together in prayer around this altar this evening,” he said. “You hope for a compassionate, understanding, approachable, open, faithful, and collaborative bishop. I, in turn, hope for those same gifts in you—compassion for the needs of our people, strength and faith to help them meet the challenges of life, and fraternal loyalty and concern for one another and for your bishop, so that we may preserve one another’s service to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The people, he added, have “great hopes for us all.”

“They want us to be holy men, to be men of fidelity to the Gospel and to the teachings of the Church. They want us to spend our lives in joyful service to them. We must not disappoint them. We cannot disappoint them.”

As row upon row of priests listened, he added that “priests everywhere, today probably more than ever before, need to know that they are loved by their bishop.”

“I want you to feel it in your hearts and sense it whenever we are together, most especially in the Eucharist. I promise to search each day to find ways to encourage you, and always to try to treat you with the mature respect and dignity that comes from a genuine love that rests on a solid foundation of Faith.”

At the same time, he said, “I will depend upon your prayers that I meet those expectations and become for you truly a loving and a holy Bishop.”

“Even when we disagree,” he said, “and brothers do often disagree, it must be done conditioned by the love that we have for one another in Christ. Even when we must face difficult issues together, that too must be done in love.”

He concluded speaking of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who ordained him as an auxiliary bishop of Chicago and who served as an auxiliary bishop in Atlanta in the 1960s, of the late Archbishop Paul Hallinan of Atlanta, and of Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue, “who has given himself so completely to you in Faith, Hope, and Love that I will build upon a sure foundation of excellence.”

“From this day forward, I promise to love you, to pray for each of you, to attempt to come to know you, and to work for your sanctification and joy,” he told the priests.

Msgr. Paul Reynolds, chancellor of the archdiocese, welcomed Archbishop Gregory on behalf of the presbyterate to the Cathedral of Christ the King. Afterward priests gathered in the parish hall of the Cathedral and mingled for an extended time with one another and with their new archbishop.

“It’s a joyful time for the archdiocese,” said Father Paul Burke, chaplain at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fairburn.

“I liked what he had to say about building on the (the work of) Archbishop Donoghue and that he had laid an excellent foundation. He left a good first impression on the presbyterate. I think he’ll be a bridge builder,” said Father Burke, not only among the priests, but “in the church as a whole.”

“He knows the challenges, he knows the blessings. He has led the church through a very difficult time . . . My hope and prayer is that he will continue with the Eucharistic Renewal and with Catholic education.”

Msgr. Stephen Churchwell, pastor of St. Luke Church in Dahlonega, noted that this was the fourth installation of an archbishop he had witnessed in the Atlanta Archdiocese and that he thought it very important to be there for this vespers service.

“Each time I understand something about what the life of a diocese is like and how it has its rhythms and seasons. We are at the end of one and the beginning of another,” Msgr. Churchwell said. “We’re in the process of getting to know each other and there may be some bumps along the way . . . I heard him say he wants communication and collaboration” and that he offers respect to the priests and asks for the same from them.

Father Victor Galier, pastor of St. Matthew Church, Tyrone, said, “I see a lot of new possibilities for the archdiocese and I’m very happy about that.”

“I am impressed with his charm and humanity and I like very much his singling out of hope as the needed virtue in today’s church and today’s world,” said Father Stewart Wilber, pastor of St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn.

“When the shepherd said the lead virtue that is needed now is hope, I said, ‘Yeah!’ . . . As church people, we’ve got to be a beacon of hope and that is not always easy.”