By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published December 14, 2006
Catholics craving an in-depth history of their faith in the South will now have a chance to purchase a keepsake book that will give a detailed insight into the early Catholics in Georgia.
Archdiocesan archivist John Hanley wrote and edited the book, “The History of the Archdiocese of Atlanta,” which has been published by Editions du Signe of Strasbourg, France.
The hardcover book contains nearly 200 glossy pages of history. The first half of the book recounts the history of the Archdiocese of Atlanta as well as early Catholics in Georgia beginning in 1790, and the second half contains the history of all the individual parishes and missions in the archdiocese.
In addition, there are full color pictures of all the parishes and missions, along with historic archdiocesan pictures and copies of some of the original documents, papal decrees and sacramental records from the area.
Hanley said that the book has been a yearlong project created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Atlanta, and he feels that researching and writing his book has helped him in his service to the archdiocese, where he has served for five years.
“It helps me to do my job better. I’m the archivist, but now, more importantly, I’m a historian for the archdiocese,” he said. “It especially helped me to become familiar with all the current parishes.”
Catholics not familiar with the birth of their faith in the region will learn a lot from the book.
“People think of us as such a young diocese, but readers will see in this book that we’ve been here just as long, if not longer, than some other prominent denominations in Georgia,” he said.
He likened the book to a “Catholic family tree” and said the book fills in a lot of gaps in the history of Georgia Catholics.
“What’s great is that it ties together the current parishes to the history. It shows how we’ve branched out and connects present Catholics to the first Catholics here,” he said. “It’s important to know who you are and where you come from, and that still rings true with your religious upbringing.”
The struggles fought by the early Catholics may be surprising to some readers, Hanley said.
“What we experience as Catholics in Georgia today—the religious freedom—there’s a reason for that. We were a minority. We were persecuted…” he said. “This shows how Catholics were treated and what they went through. It helps you to appreciate your faith.”
The book was published with a one time, limited printing and is available only through individual parishes. For cost and availability, those interested should contact their parish office.