By BRENDA TIRADO TORRES-Special To The Bulletin | Published December 22, 2005
For the first time since HIV/AIDS ministries were established in the archdiocese, the Catholic community in North Georgia was invited to join AIDS ministers in prayer for all who have died from AIDS-related complications, as well as for those around the world who live with or are affected by the disease.
From Nov. 26 to Dec. 4, Catholic parishes and groups throughout the archdiocese held prayer services or celebrated Masses during a “Week of Prayer for a World Living With AIDS.”
“With the week we wanted to bring attention among the faithful about the fact that AIDS exists in every parish of the United States, even when the issue is not spoken about and many people affected remain in silence because of the stigma attached to the disease,” said Irene Miranda, director of the archdiocesan Office of HIV/AIDS Ministry.
An evening Mass at Holy Cross Church in Tucker was offered for all affected by or living with the HIV disease.
During his homily, Deacon Cecil Reimer recalled a story he had read in a newsmagazine about a young girl in Jamaica who took care of her father, who was dying of AIDS.
“The question we ask ourselves is, how willing am I to serve or sacrifice for people who need me, people with AIDS? Like the young woman from Jamaica, today we celebrate our hope for a world where fewer people become infected with HIV and where those who live with the disease and their families can be treated with respect and compassion.”
At Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Atlanta, a prayer service was organized by “Simon’s Call,” the parish AIDS ministry, and led by Sister Nora Ryan, OP, former archdiocesan coordinator of the ministry.
Children from Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School prayed for “the children of AIDS” during the morning Mass Dec. 1, when the global community commemorated World AIDS Day.
Father James Schillinger, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, explained to the students how, during Advent, Christians prepare to welcome Christ, the newborn king. Catholics can live the season by loving one another and helping those in need.
“Today we observe World AIDS Day. AIDS is a terrible disease, and in this parish we have a group of folks who are dedicated to teach about the disease and caring for others,” Father Schillinger told the children. “They show the care of Jesus for the needy, the sick, and how Christ walks every day with them. When we welcome the sick, the lonely, we welcome Christ the king. That’s what it means to be a Christian; that’s what it means to be a Catholic.”
That same day, an evening prayer service took place at St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro.
“Hope is the core of what this is about for those in AIDS ministry, for those who lost someone to AIDS, for those who face prejudice and hatred,” said Msgr. Henry Gracz, pastor of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta, who led the reflections during the prayer service.
“The hope of Christ has to come to every person, no matter the race or way of life. We are called to be signs of hope to all in need,” said Msgr. Gracz. “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. You can live hopeful because compassion strengthens our life, the life we celebrate in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
Other Masses and services were held at St. Ann Church in Marietta and St. Oliver Plunkett Church in Snellville. A special evening of prayers was organized by members of the archdiocesan Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry and led by the ministry’s director, Leonardo Jaramillo, during their eucharistic adoration at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.