Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Archbishop Announces Senior Administrative Appointments

By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO and ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writers | Published March 31, 2005

As part of establishing a strong support team, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory has announced several changes in the senior administrative staff for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Effective April 24, he has appointed Father Joseph Corbett as vicar general of the archdiocese, succeeding Msgr. R. Donald Kiernan, who is stepping down from the role of vicar general for pastoral ministries after five years. Father Corbett is pastor of St. Brigid Church, Alpharetta, and will remain as pastor there for the time being.

Effective immediately, Archbishop Gregory has also appointed Katherine Stearns as chancellor of the archdiocese. She has been serving as vice-chancellor for the past five years.

Msgr. Paul Reynolds, vicar general in curia for the archdiocese, will remain in his role. In addition to serving as vicar general, he has also served as chancellor for the past five years.

In discussing the announcements, Archbishop Gregory said, “The vicars general and Kathi Stearns are the nucleus of a very strong administrative team,” noting that he expects the three of them to work together with each other and with him as a team—“a troika.”

Father Corbett has the “skill and enthusiasm” for the job of vicar general, said the archbishop, noting, “I was looking for an energetic and resourceful pastor to appoint as vicar general. Someone who has the experience of a church in growth mode.”

“Over the last several months, I’ve been working with Father Joe Corbett and found him to be a man of great skill and energy, someone who helped to establish one of the biggest and most growing parishes.”

Archbishop Gregory expects that Father Corbett will help him to put the right policies into place in the archdiocese.

“He understands the needs of the parishes. He has the high energy level to do this work,” said Archbishop Gregory.

Father Corbett said he is relying on the prayers of others and the Holy Spirit to guide him during this new phase of his priesthood.

“Every day, immediately following the 6:45 a.m. and 9 a.m. Masses at St. Brigid, all attending those Masses stay an extra few minutes in the adoration chapel after Mass to pray as a community a special novena of prayers for their two parish priests, four parishioner seminarians and one deacon in formation,” the St. Brigid pastor said. “I think I’ll be asking them to say an extra prayer for me.”

Father Corbett, 33, a native of County Waterford, Ireland, went to St. John’s College in Waterford and was ordained in 1995 for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. After serving three years in his first assignment as a parochial vicar at All Saints Church in Dunwoody, Father Corbett was asked to begin a new mission in Alpharetta. St. Brigid’s first Sunday Mass was celebrated Nov. 1, 1999, for over 500 people. The thriving Alpharetta parish is now home to nearly 10,000 parishioners.

Father Corbett, who has also served on several archdiocesan boards, is the chaplain for the Alpharetta Police Department. He was the coordinator for the liturgy for Archbishop Gregory’s installation Mass.

When Archbishop Gregory approached Father Corbett and asked him to “prayerfully consider” serving as a vicar general, Father Corbett said he felt “speechless.”

“I certainly feel blessed and honored by his confidence in me,” he said. “I am very excited about contributing to the pastoral vision and activity of Archbishop Gregory for our archdiocese.”

Though he admits there will be a learning curve to his new role, he is excited for the opportunity, Father Corbett said.

“God certainly works in wonderful and amazing ways to guide us and teach us in life—so I’m sure it will be a gradual learning process for me, as it was when I took on the challenge of starting the new mission in Alpharetta a few years ago,” he said. “I will continue to serve the parishioners of St. Brigid as their pastor for now; and in my new role as vicar general, I look forward to working with and serving the priests, deacons, Religious and laity of the archdiocese.”

Archbishop Gregory believes that the skills of the two vicars general will complement each other.

He noted, “Msgr. Reynolds has been so supportive. He has been a font of wisdom in helping me come to know the priests and the archdiocese, the history and the heritage.”

In his other announcement, Archbishop Gregory made Stearns one of the few lay women in the United States to serve as chancellor of an archdiocese.

Stearns has held a series of responsible positions within the Archdiocese of Atlanta, said the archbishop, including her long-time role working with the media, as well as spearheading the implementation of the archdiocesan sexual abuse policy.

Archbishop Gregory said, “She knows so many people, and she has the respect of a wide spectrum of people.”

A native of Atlanta, a graduate of Christ the King School and a 1986 graduate of St. Pius X High School, Stearns, 37, earned an undergraduate degree in communications from Mercer University, Atlanta, in 1990. She was valedictorian of her graduating class. In 2002, she completed an executive master of business administration degree in international business from the same university.

After a short stint working as a St. Pius journalism teacher, Stearns joined the staff of The Georgia Bulletin in 1992, where she worked as a reporter, photographer, editor and executive editor, earning numerous Catholic journalism awards during her time at the paper.

In 2001, she was asked by Archbishop John F. Donoghue to take on the role of vice-chancellor for special projects. She has covered a wide area of responsibility for the archdiocese for the past five years, overseeing the offices of Development, Communications, Information Technology, Catholic Charities, Catholic Schools, Religious Education and Family Life.

About her promotion to chancellor, Stearns said, “It is a privilege and an honor to work for Archbishop Gregory and to be a part of his administrative team. Since his arrival, I have been thankful for the many gifts that he has already brought to the archdiocese.”

She added, “I want to take this opportunity to thank the archbishop for the confidence he has placed in me by appointing me chancellor. I promise to do all that I can to be worthy of his appointment and to do my best to live up to the responsibility and trust that he has placed in me.”

Archbishop Gregory stated that Stearns “has shown herself to be a person of deep faith and prudent judgment.”

He has great faith in his new senior administrative staff.

“I find each of them to be people of real faith, enthusiasm, hope and joy. Each has unique gifts.”

He added, with his own enthusiasm, “I will work in collaboration with them to move us forward.”