By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published May 12, 2005
Regular readers of Ebony magazine were greeted with a familiar face while flipping through the pages of the April edition.
Among the articles about hip-hop star Kanye West and stories about the latest fashions, a photo of a smiling Father Ricardo Bailey leapt from the pages of the popular magazine.
Father Bailey, parochial vicar at St. Joseph Church in Marietta, was named one of the 30 leaders of the future by Ebony.
In the introduction, it is said that Ebony “canvassed the U.S. in search of young people ages 30 and younger who have established themselves as leaders or who are demonstrating that they have what it takes to be a good leader.”
“They are young, gifted and Black,” it reads. “And while they have dedicated time and effort to get a solid educational foundation, they also have demonstrated a strong and focused mission to give back to their communities and especially to those less fortunate.”
Charles Prejean, director of the Office for Black Catholic Ministry in the archdiocese, said that Ebony has affirmed the qualities that many saw long ago in Father Bailey, who served in Prejean’s office prior to his ordination in 2003.
“It was obvious that this was a young man who was serious about his vocation,” Prejean said. “Early on he exhibited a number of leadership skills and his enthusiasm about his vocation and his abilities are very transparent.”
Father Bailey is listed in Ebony among 29 of his peers, including lawyers, doctors and businessmen and women. Several other Atlanta residents are also recognized, including Rev. Roslyn Satchel, executive director of the National Center for Human Rights Education.
A native Atlantan, Father Bailey grew up in Our Lady of Lourdes Church, a parish built partially with funding from St. Katharine Drexel, who also sent her Blessed Sacrament sisters to teach at the parish school. He earned a bachelor of sacred theology degree and a master of divinity degree from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.
Father Bailey said he was chosen among graduates of Xavier University in New Orleans where he earned his bachelor’s degree, but he admits he was surprised when the article was published.
“I thought they’d use a little headshot, but I couldn’t believe that they actually used a decent-sized picture,” he said. “The way I see it, it’s good press and a good honor for the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Atlanta.”
Father Bailey, who will turn 32 this December, also serves as the assistant master of ceremonies to Archbishop Gregory, as the district chaplain to the Knights and Ladies Auxiliary of St. Peter Claver (Gulf Coast District), and as the chaplain of the Northwest Atlanta Metro Serra Club. In addition, he is training to become a police chaplain with the Fulton County Police Department.
The humble priest admits he has gotten a lot of attention from others who read the popular magazine, which has been the premiere publication for African-Americans for 60 years.
“I think every black person I know reads Ebony. Archbishop (Wilton D.) Gregory dropped me a note, I’ve heard from friends of mine around the country and the people at Our Lady of Lourdes,” he said. “The people of St. Joseph’s are also telling me they saw it—the kids at (St. Joseph) school.”
“I think it’s really hilarious. People who don’t usually buy Ebony have bought like 10 copies,” he said with a laugh.
But the dynamic priest remains modest about the recognition.
“I was extremely honored and humbled by it,” he said. “There are so many other black priests around the country who work harder than I do, who are truly trailblazers. When (Ebony) called me and asked me what I do, I told them, ‘I’m just a priest. I just celebrate the sacraments. That’s what I do.’”
But Prejean said he wasn’t surprised by the Ebony recognition nor by the positive news he continues to hear from the people of Marietta about their beloved priest.
“He’s always shown a great love for all people of all cultural ancestries,” he said. “This just proved that we’ve been right all along.”