Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Cancer Home Doing Christ’s Work, Archbishop Says

By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published May 5, 2005

Quietly he walked over to each one of them. They showed him pictures of their families. They shook his hand. They told him about their experiences in the war. Some were too weak to get out of bed. Others sat up and joked with him. And one by one, he blessed them all.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory made his first visit to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home to celebrate Mass and visit with the patients April 19.

Just hours before the announcement of the election of Pope Benedict XVI, the archbishop celebrated a simple Mass for the Hawthorne Dominican sisters who run the home and a handful of volunteers and patients.

In his homily, Archbishop Gregory expressed his delight in celebrating with the sisters.

“I myself was taught by the Adrian Dominicans, so I am a Dominican product. I’m glad to claim them, and I hope they’re not too embarrassed to claim me,” he joked.

He spoke of the people in Scripture whose names had changed after their conversions. That name change represented a “new reality.” To take on the name “Christian” also signifies a new reality, he said.

“I wonder how many people would call us Christians, just by the way we live our lives?” Archbishop Gregory asked. “Obviously in the work in this house, in this community, people who are not Catholic, who are not even Christian, would see in this house, in the caring of the critically ill, an expression of faith and kindness.”

“The work in this house is sufficient to give you the name ‘Christian,’” he said. “I’m grateful to the sisters who are here doing the work that Christ would do.”

Following the Mass, where prayers were offered for the election of a new pope, the archbishop joked and posed for photos with the sisters, who then led him down the corridors to the patients’ rooms. He shook each patient’s hand, or simply laid a hand on his or her head in a gesture of blessing. One patient flipped through his scrapbook, showing the archbishop photos of himself in World War II.

Archbishop Gregory also met the many staff members and volunteers of the home.

“Thank you for being such a faithful volunteer,” he told one woman named Gladys.

Kim Rigdon has served as OLPH’s bookkeeper for the past two and a half years. A parishioner of Prince of Peace Church in Buford, she said that she is uplifted by her time at OLPH.

“I love it. I love to be here,” she said. “For a hospice environment where patients are terminally ill, it’s such a joyous, happy place. You really feel the peace of God here.”

Rigdon’s husband, Bill, serves as the Web master and computer consultant for the home and admits he was a “sickness and death phobe” before becoming involved at OLPH.

“It sounds strange, but this place has really helped me lose my fear of death. I’ve learned that death is a part of life, and that it’s a grand gateway into the next life,” he said. “There is an excellent group of sisters here. They’ve really opened my eyes.”

Sister Miriam Smith, OP, superior of the home, said that they felt “quite honored” that the archbishop had made time in his schedule to visit the home.

“The staff, the patients, everyone was really excited to have him here. It’s an exciting day,” she said. “It’s really a simple, quiet kind of thing that we wanted to do. We wanted to welcome him into our home and into our family.”