Published May 17, 2007
Members and friends of St. Pius X Church will celebrate two significant parish events at a special anniversary celebration on Sunday, June 17. The date marks the 30th anniversary of the first permanent Catholic sanctuary in Rockdale County and pastor Father John Kieran’s 40th anniversary as a priest.
The celebration will begin at noon with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory presiding at the anniversary Mass, followed by a luncheon on the grounds. Parish music groups are planning special music for the event, and a commemorative booklet is to be published. Former parishioners and friends are especially invited to attend.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve our Catholic people here in Rockdale. I invite all to join me in returning thanks to God for his multiple blessings to the St. Pius family,” Father Kieran said.
St. Pius X Church began with a small group of families who attended Mass at the Trappist Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers after its founding in 1944. During the next decades the number of Catholics in the area increased slowly but steadily. St. Pius X Parish was officially established by Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan on July 8,1974.
The newly formed parish of 125 families outgrew the chapel at the monastery. The new pastor, Father Paul Fogarty, searched for a larger building in which to celebrate Mass and conduct religious education classes. White Funeral Home owner Waldo Bowen and his wife generously opened the funeral home chapel to parishioners.
By November, 7.3 acres on Georgia Highway 20 were purchased as the site of the new parish complex. Ground was broken on April 25, 1976, actual construction began in June, and as the project neared completion, the granite altar was transferred from the monastery chapel to St. Pius. Archbishop Donnellan blessed and dedicated the original St. Pius X Church building on March 27, 1977.
By 1990 the parish had outgrown its original classroom space, and a new two-story, 15-classroom religious education center and parish hall was completed, under the leadership of pastor Father John Walsh.
Father Kieran was assigned as pastor in November 1996. With the parish having grown to 1,500 families, the need for a larger worship space became evident. Under Father Kieran’s guidance, parish leaders decided to build a new sanctuary, preserving the original worship space as a chapel and connecting all the existing buildings in the new design. The first Mass was celebrated in the new sanctuary on July 13, 1999, followed by formal consecration by Archbishop John F. Donoghue on Sept. 11, 1999.
The parish has a history of strong lay leaders who have volunteered their talents serving on pastoral councils, which helped succeeding pastors meet the needs of the ever-growing Catholic family. Five men from the parish have been ordained as permanent deacons and the community emphasizes stewardship, evangelism, ecumenical cooperation, and long-term involvement with a sister parish in Haiti.
Father Kieran, who will be 70 on June 6, is a native of Dublin, Ireland, the second child of eight to Laurence and Joan McKeever Kieran. He grew up on the family farm managed by his father and today still managed by his older brother Patrick. Eight generations of his family have lived on this same parcel of land. He studied and expected to work in horticulture.
While he was volunteering with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, he first began thinking of becoming a priest. At 23, he answered the call and entered All Hallows College Seminary in Dublin where he studied for six years. He was ordained a priest June 18, 1967, and volunteered for service in the Atlanta Archdiocese where his brother Father Richard already served. Father Kieran became an American citizen in 1997.
He has served as assistant pastor at St. Jude’s Church, Sandy Springs, St. Anthony’s, Atlanta, and Blessed Sacrament, Atlanta. Prior to being named pastor at St. Pius X, Father Kieran had served as pastor at St. Joseph’s Church, Dalton, and Blue Ridge Mission, St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro, Christ Our Hope Church, Lithonia, St. Peter Church, LaGrange, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Mission, Warm Springs.
Father Kieran’s work outside the parish includes Rockdale Hospital Chaplain’s Association, prison ministry, Engaged Encounter weekend retreats, seminarian mentoring, Refuge Pregnancy Center, interdenominational relationships, Ulster Project, and Habitat for Humanity.
St. Pius X Church is located at 2621 Highway 20, SE, Conyers.