Published April 3, 2008
Black ties and white clerical collars, distinguishing archdiocesan laity and priests, were the dress of the evening at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center Friday, March 28, for Shepherd’s Night, an annual event hosted by local Serra Clubs.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue were among the distinguished guests for the event, which honors and recognizes the work of priests in the archdiocese. They were joined by over 50 priests.
Jim Aden, president of the North Metro Serra Club, was one of the first to welcome those arriving at the hotel.
Atlanta’s archbishop highlighted the evening with his remarks about the hard-working priests of the archdiocese, and he thanked the Serrans for providing a chance to let them be recognized.
“Whenever the Serrans honor them (the priests), I want to be the first in that group to thank them,” the archbishop said during his brief address following the dinner.
Archbishop Gregory spoke of the “special bond” he feels with the “extraordinary” priests of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
The nearly 200 laypeople in attendance rose to their feet in applause at the end of the archbishop’s address to show their support for the ministry the priests provide to the archdiocesan community.
The words shared by Archbishop Gregory were a culmination of the evening’s events, which began in a friendly atmosphere outside the hotel’s grand ballroom.
Priests and Serrans first gathered for a social hour to enjoy drinks, appetizers and each other’s company in elegant surroundings, dominated by a classy black and white color theme, from the attire of the guests to the black tables with white candle accents.
According to Aden, this was the second year the Serrans chose this location for the event, which was typically held in a parish social hall in previous years. The purpose was to make the event more memorable for the bishops and priests serving in the archdiocese.
“Last year Serra Atlanta decided to upgrade this annual event from a buffet supper in a parish hall to more of a gala staged in a hotel ballroom,” Aden said. “We came back to the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center this year as we were so pleased with all they did last year.”
Nearly an hour after the guests arrived, the doors to the ballroom opened, and the guests entered and found their seats at one of 20 tables, decorated with mirror tiles and white candles.
Aden addressed the assembly, welcoming and thanking them for being a part of the event and then introduced the evening’s emcee, FOX 5 news anchor Russ Spencer.
“Welcome to Shepherd’s Night 2008. … I stand before you in total humility and total appreciation for the work you do,” Spencer told the priests.
Father Luke Ballman, director of vocations for the archdiocese, was introduced by Spencer and led the attendees in prayer before the meal.
“Thank you for the opportunity to gather in fellowship,” the priest said. “We thank you for the generosity of the many men and women of Serra.”
Another highlight of the evening came toward the end of the meal, when Catholic singer and songwriter Annie Karto provided entertainment with her original compositions.
Smiles lit up the faces of those present when a slideshow of the priests of the archdiocese was shown during Karto’s performance of “You Are a Priest, Forever,” a song written to acknowledge the priests’ ministry.
Shepherd’s Night is one of many ways the Serra Clubs promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life, including their support of the Eucharistic Congress, sponsoring and organizing the Elijah Cup program, and holding annual events for seminarians and women religious. There are four Serra Clubs in the archdiocese, the northwest, the north metro, the metro and the greater northeast. Membership is open to men and women. Serra is an international Catholic lay organization.
“The number one mission of Serra is to pray for and foster men and women to discern and accept a vocation from God,” said Aden. “Second to that is for Serrans to support all priests, sisters and deacons in his service. Shepherd’s Night is just one of many events or activities per year where Serrans show their support to those in religious life.”
“Shepherd’s Night is a great opportunity for us to socialize with fellow priests and Serrans,” said Father Ballman.
For more information on Serra Clubs in the archdiocese visit www.serraatlanta.org.