By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published December 21, 2006
The final event commemorating the jubilee of the Archdiocese of Atlanta was celebrated on Thanksgiving weekend, appropriately, on the feast of Christ the King. The bishops of Charleston, S.C., and Charlotte, N.C., Bishop Robert J. Baker and Bishop Peter J. Jugis, respectively, joined Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue on Sunday, Nov. 26, to concelebrate Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King and conclude the months-long celebration of the establishment of the Diocese of Atlanta. Ten priests of the archdiocese and a number of deacons also participated in the celebration.
The quiet 10:30 a.m. Mass was well attended by parishioners and guests and featured the beautiful voices of the Cathedral Choir, which offered musical selections related to the special theme of the day. The song for preparation, “The Lord Is King,” included the words “Holiness is fitting to your house, until the end of time. O Lord from all eternity until the end of time,” particularly connected with the jubilee’s theme, from the prayers of the Easter vigil Mass, “All time belongs to him.”
A highlight of the Mass was Archbishop Gregory’s homily, as he described the accomplishments of the diocese and gave glory to God for the church’s success in North Georgia. He praised Jesus as “King of all creation—the universal sovereign over all the peoples of the world, both those who have lived, or are currently living, or who will ever live.”
The archbishop stated, “Throughout these months during which we have observed our 50th Jubilee, we have been reminded that all time belongs to Him, this King who is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, is the Lord of our lives and every moment of our lives remains sheltered in His love.”
A recap of the important aspects of the archdiocese followed, as the archbishop mentioned the “tremendous growth and expansion” of the Catholic Church in North Georgia over the past five decades, as it has become a “significant religious presence” by 2006. Five times the number of parishes now exist in this part of the state than did in 1956. He recalled the schools that have opened, the social agencies that “continue to throw open wide their doors to people in need whatever their race, religious affiliation, or economic status,” the spiritual traditions such as “Marian devotions, charismatic prayer groups, marriage and family life support groups, rosary ensembles, and pious associations of all styles.”
“We pray,” the archbishop said, “before the Eucharistic King night and day in many locations throughout the Archdiocese.”
He mentioned the diversity of Catholics in the archdiocese and the “Spanish, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Creole, Korean, Lithuanian, and Polish” prayers offered by the faithful. He recalled with pride the “great battle of civil rights” and the role of Atlanta in “bringing the races together in harmony and fellowship even as it must continue to go forward to even greater perfection for all our children in the future.”
Archbishop Gregory also remembered the many priests who serve the local church, asserting “with great pride” that they are “equal in zeal and generosity to those pioneer priests who first worked to establish the Church that is now the Archdiocese of Atlanta.” He also praised the deacons for “their generous service in every corner of our diocese” and the religious men and women who “provide a bright light of hope and joy as they live out their sacred vows.”
Archbishop Gregory brought a challenge to those gathered and to all Catholics in the archdiocese: “As we continue to reach out to those who may feel distant or alienated from the Church’s embrace, the separated, divorced, the physically or emotionally disabled, those who may experience the Church as uncaring or even hostile to them, those who have been scandalized or angered by the revelations of the recent past, those who believe the Church is too tolerant or too restrictive or just too demanding must be brought to know the tenderness of Christ’s love for all people.”
One of those attending the Mass was Christ the King parishioner Barbara Johansen, who has attended the Cathedral as well as other Atlanta churches since 1939. She especially enjoyed the Mass and remembered her own years of attending Catholic schools and parishes in the area, as well as her experiences in raising five children in the faith. Her husband Fred shared that the family even owns the original confessional sliding windows from the Cathedral, purchased when the church was renovated some years ago.
The jubilee events kicked off in June with special Masses for those celebrating 50 and 60 years of marriage, priests celebrating jubilee years of 25 and 50 years of priesthood, and an opening Mass celebrated for all attending the Eucharistic Congress. In the ensuing months, Archbishop Gregory marked this significant anniversary with Masses held for the many different groups of the archdiocese, including the young adults, youth ministry, consecrated men and women, Catholic educators, deacons, and diocesan and parish staffs. Two local concerts were also dedicated to the jubilee, and a small number of pilgrims made a journey to the oldest churches in this part of the state to learn more about the history of the early church in the Atlanta area.
Deacon Lloyd Sutter, administrator of the archdiocesan Office of Religious Education and Faith Formation, facilitated the committee that planned the jubilee activities. He was asked to lead this effort, he said, because “I lived the history: I was a senior at Marist when Bishop (Francis E.) Hyland was installed as first bishop of the diocese on Nov. 8, 1956, and I was an altar server that day.”
Deacon Sutter reflected on the committee’s accomplishments. “I believe that the celebration accomplished Archbishop Gregory’s objective—rather than one big event, he was able to celebrate many Masses and other events (like the two concerts) with specific groups of local church Catholics.”
He noted that many people on the committee and at the churches where events were held helped with the various tasks needed for the jubilee events.
Personally, he said, “My most memorable moments were witnessing both the opening and closing Masses, on July 2 (the diocesan establishment date) and Nov. 26. I also enjoyed the pilgrimage, especially to the early settler graves in Washington, Ga., and the Masses at Sacred Heart Church in Milledgeville and at Purification Station Church (in Sharon).”
To those gathered at this last commemoration of the first five decades of the diocese, Archbishop Gregory’s closing words inspired with a deeper call. “As we go forth to other less noteworthy anniversaries, we need to pause and take pride in all that God has done for us, confident that the best is yet to come—for our children and all those who will follow us. On Peachtree Road there is a church sign that gives hope to all who pass by and who pause to read it—Christ is King! Amen!”