By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published March 15, 2007
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory announced March 7 that two priests who serve as vicars general of the archdiocese have been named Chaplains of His Holiness with the title of monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI.
They are Msgr. W. Joseph Corbett and Msgr. Luis R. Zarama.
“I am deeply grateful that our Holy Father has bestowed these honors on our vicars general,” Archbishop Gregory said. “It is an expression of the fine service that they have provided as pastors and now as servant ministers for the archdiocese. The Holy Father has honored this local church in appointing Monsignors Zarama and Corbett as his Chaplains.”
The archbishop called the priests into his office last Wednesday and told them, an announcement that caught them completely by surprise, Msgr. Zarama said.
“It was a big surprise. I never expected that. He called both of us to his office and he shared the news with us.”
Then he invited the two priests, Msgr. Corbett originally from Ireland and Msgr. Zarama originally from Colombia, South America, to go call their families.
“We ran to call them,” Msgr. Zarama said.
His parents, Rafael and Maria Zarama, now live in Orlando, Fla., near two of his siblings. Three other brothers live in Colombia.
When he told his parents, he said, “Really, really, they were in shock.”
He gave them the joy of spreading the news to the rest of the family.
“My family was a very devout Catholic family, and I got a beautiful example of faith from my family,” he said. “I gave my parents the opportunity for them to call my brothers and sister and tell them the news.”
Plans for the investiture Mass and celebration are still being prepared, but both priests hope and expect their parents will be able to come.
“I made the call to my parents in Stradbally, County Waterford, Ireland,” Msgr. Corbett said. “Just as I was, I think they were stunned, but very, very happy. And then after a moment or two, they asked, ‘Does this mean you will have more work to do?’”
He recalled that Archbishop Gregory was smiling “even more than he normally does” when he called them into his office to break the news.
“Beaming, and without any long or grand lead-in, he very sincerely and graciously said something like ‘You two are now Monsignors!’ I remember staring at him and not being able to respond. I think he said something else, but I really don’t recall what it was … Of course, it happens to all priests that parishioners and staff occasionally joke with us about the possibility, but I never seriously gave it much thought until last Wednesday morning in the archbishop’s office.”
Msgr. Corbett, 35, said that it is “a wonderful honor.”
“I am very grateful that the archbishop thought of me and presented my name to the Holy Father for consideration as a Chaplain of His Holiness,” he said. “I did not do anything special to deserve this honor—and I know full well there are so many, many serving the church here and around the world that deserve similar recognition for their wonderful ministry.”
“With the Lord’s help and the intercession of Our Lady, St. Brigid and all the saints, I just try to serve the Lord every day, whether it’s here at the Chancery or at a parish, school, or elsewhere,” said the former pastor of St. Brigid Church in Alpharetta.
Msgr. Zarama, who is 48, comes from the city of Pasto in southwestern Colombia, where he received his licentiate in philosophy and theology at the Universidad Mariana. He received a licentiate in canon law from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia.
Invited to become a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, he came to Georgia in 1991, and after time spent serving in several parishes, he was ordained a priest by Archbishop John F. Donoghue on Nov. 27, 1993.
“The first time Msgr. (Donald) Kenny invited me to come and know the archdiocese … I think I fell in love with the city and the archdiocese. I really, really enjoy my life here in the archdiocese,” Msgr. Zarama said.
Bilingual, with a desire to build unity between Hispanic and Anglo parishioners, he became the first Hispanic priest to serve as a pastor in the archdiocese. He was pastor of St. Mark Church, Clarkesville, and its mission of St. Helena Church, Clayton, for 10 years, leading St. Mark’s in a building project to construct a new church, which was dedicated in 2003. He became a U.S. citizen on July 4, 2000.
He has also served as assistant director for Hispanic vocations and traveled to Colombia in that regard. A canon lawyer, he has served in the Marriage Tribunal as defender of the bond. Archbishop Gregory called upon him to become a vicar general in April 2006.
The vicar general role, Msgr. Zarama said, is significant, but it is most important for him to focus continuously on his identity as a priest and on serving God and the archbishop.
“For me it is a big responsibility because, as you say, my essence is to be a priest. I need to remember myself that I am a priest, and I need to be a priest to serve. It is very different, of course, (from being a pastor of a parish). But for me I need to see … how I can continue to serve the Lord in the place he is calling me to serve now. Yes, it is administration, but I need to see the pastoral side of the office, serving the archbishop.”
His role as vicar general includes overseeing a number of archdiocesan ministries and offices, particularly the black Catholic ministry, Hispanic, permanent diaconate, pro-life, AIDS ministry, and priest personnel office.
“I always ask God, give me the grace to help to be what I am. My only concern is to keep being a priest to serve. This is what I am,” he said. “I have been so blessed to be here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and I am so blessed to work with Archbishop Gregory and with the priests and the deacons and everybody.”
He and Msgr. Corbett are the closest advisors to the archbishop and chief administrators working in the Chancery.
Msgr. Corbett is a native of Stradbally, County Waterford, Ireland. The oldest of three children of Pat and Margaret Corbett, he attended St. John’s College in Waterford and was ordained in Stradbally on May 28,1995, by Archbishop Donoghue for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. After serving for three years in his first assignment as a parochial vicar at All Saints Church in Dunwoody, Father Corbett was asked to help start a new Alpharetta mission named for St. Brigid in 1999, with a regional Catholic elementary school, Holy Redeemer, opening that fall.
Over 500 people came to the first Sunday Mass in November, which he celebrated in an auditorium. As the community grew into the parish of St. Brigid, Msgr. Corbett established the initial building and finance councils, led the building fund drive, and accomplished the construction of the church, parish hall, classrooms and parish offices. Archbishop Donoghue dedicated the church facility on Nov. 2, 2003. St. Brigid is now a thriving parish of approximately 10,000 parishioners.
He has also served on coordinating committees for the Eucharistic Congress and for the installation Mass of Archbishop Gregory.
The new archbishop asked Msgr. Corbett to serve as a vicar general part time beginning April 24, 2005, while also continuing to serve as pastor of St. Brigid Church. A year later on April 28, 2006 he became a full-time vicar general, while Msgr. Paul H. Reynolds, who had been vicar general, became pastor of St. Brigid Church.