By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published January 13, 2005
As our Archbishop John F. Donoghue begins retirement, we are grateful for the hand of God always guiding the church and bringing God’s purposes about, and for his willing servants who give their best and walk wholeheartedly by faith, whatever challenges come.
Archbishop Donoghue arrived in the summer of 1993, six months after the untimely death of Archbishop James P. Lyke, OFM. He came to pastor a Catholic community that had lost its second archbishop in only four years, and been tried. Periods of great hope had turned into times of crushing loss.
Catholics hoped for a time of stability in the archdiocese as the new archbishop was installed.
Now, in hindsight, the archdiocese was about to enter a new period, lasting 11 years, the second longest tenure for an archbishop in the history of the archdiocese. The stability longed for has been given but also many other generous gifts.
As this time ends with Archbishop Donoghue beginning his well-deserved retirement at 76, yet remaining here in the archdiocese, and with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory becoming the next archbishop of Atlanta, there is a palpable sense of fulfillment and grace.
Some highlights of Archbishop Donoghue’s legacy are chronicled throughout this issue of The Georgia Bulletin, and in the observations of many Catholics who wanted to express their gratitude to him.
His priorities have received the warm support of so many in the archdiocese, and it is evident that his emphasis upon essential Catholic spirituality and teaching on the Eucharist not only resonates with many people but is confirmed by the instructions being given to the universal church by Pope John Paul II at this time.
The enthusiasm of lay Catholics for adoration affirms that Archbishop Donoghue’s direction a decade ago to open the first perpetual adoration chapel was and is meeting a hunger and a need of this day and time. Now there are 10 such chapels and many more churches with regular adoration times. The pope’s call for a Year of the Eucharist in 2004-2005 and for an emphasis upon the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist affirms this important direction.
In addition, a greater spiritual vitality is flowing in the archdiocese, as confirmed by the stories of ordinary people who say their lives have been changed.
The archbishop has also led by example, a quiet example that means a lot to people who have seen him praying outside an abortion clinic or standing in a Life Chain, or who have received personal help from him in a time of need, or who have encountered him keeping an hour of adoration.
The dramatic expansion of the Catholic school system and the support for vocations to the priesthood and Religious life that have been his heartfelt concerns will be a lasting legacy in the Catholic community. Over 100 new priests have been ordained. Critical needs have been addressed through a major capital campaign. People have been challenged to meet the growing needs of the Catholic community and of those outside the community in evangelization.
In his priorities concerning the Eucharist, concerning Catholic education, and concerning vocations, the archbishop has often said that he is most concerned that the Catholic faith be transmitted in its power and in its mystery to children of this generation and the next.
His quiet demeanor and his humility have not made this a headline. In fact, over the last decade, to prioritize eucharistic devotion, Catholic education and vocations has been to swim against the tide in every respect.
Yet he has made sure that it happened here, with hard work, with prayer, and by encouraging others to put their talents, their time and their resources to work on these worthy goals.
He’s also a man who didn’t take himself too seriously and liked to use his humor to keep people around him from getting too intense and certainly from getting confused about the source of any accomplishments.
Looking at the spiritual vitality in the archdiocese, Archbishop Donoghue attributes it to the work of the people—clergy, Religious and lay—and ultimately to adoration and prayer.
He also acknowledges that there were many difficult times when only God’s hand guided the church and showed the way ahead.
At this time we hope and pray that God will sustain the good that has been started: not only the physical legacy that has been established around the archdiocese, but the archbishop’s example of “living in Christ Jesus” in humility, quiet example, prayer and self-deprecating good humor.
This time of transition makes one deeply grateful for God’s guidance to the church, and for his care in bringing shepherds to his people with servants’ hearts for each season. We pray for his blessings upon our Archbishop-emeritus.