By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published November 6, 2008
Shaded beneath old Georgia pines amid the joyful songs of countless birds, nearly 75 people assembled in a secluded spot of Arlington Cemetery on Monday, Nov. 3, to remember the souls of all the bishops, priests, deacons and lay people of the archdiocese who have died and are buried there.
With an altar set up before a large crucifix near the spot where three of Atlanta’s bishops and many archdiocesan priests have been laid to rest, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory concelebrated the annual All Souls’ Day Mass with more than a dozen priests assisted by deacons, and gave words of encouragement to those who have lost loved ones.
“Whenever we think of our deceased loved ones in moments like today, we tend to remember usually only their best qualities—we remember their funny characteristics—we remember their tender attributes,” the archbishop said during his homily.
“Yet when God considers us—his loving compassion transforms us—his love for us makes us precious in his sight. That alone should make us all hopeful,” he continued.
Archbishop Gregory also said All Souls’ Day is a time for “deep reflection and soberness,” especially for the priests, religious and lay people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, for whom the Mass was being celebrated.
He also mentioned Msgr. Thomas Kenny, rector of Christ the King Cathedral, who died Oct. 30.
“Our hearts are heavy because Tom has crossed from this world to the next and we all feel somewhat abandoned by and very much bereft at his passing,” he said. “Yet because we are people of faith and hope, we believe that Christ has received his servant into his mercy and looked upon him with love—as he does for all of us.”
At the end of Mass, the archbishop extended heartfelt thanks to the staff at the cemetery for their “warm welcome and hospitality,” and he also expressed gratitude to St. Jude the Apostle Church, Atlanta, for providing all of the vessels used in the day’s liturgy, as well as for the music and the altar servers.
Joan Tobia, sacristan at St. Jude who helped set up for the Mass, said she felt there were abundant graces given to those present with this community of lay people and priests for the feast of All Souls.
Chris Gnanapragasam, pastoral minister at St. Jude, described the Mass and the setting as “very peaceful” and appropriate for such a remembrance.
A handful of sisters were also present, including two Dominicans, sisters Anna Nguyen and Hanh Nguyen.
“We want to be here for support for both the young and the old,” said Sister Anna.
The Mass for All Souls was their first in Arlington Cemetery and they voiced their intent to bring more people with them next year to experience the peaceful Mass.
Several of those who attended were in no rush to leave the calm and quiet grounds of Arlington. Many took time to walk around the gentle rolling hills of the cemetery, praying to themselves or aloud as they read the names of friends and strangers alike.
“We can take hope therefore today in God’s love for them and for us as we commend them to the Lord’s own mercy and ask that this same mercy continue to bless us and our Archdiocese of Atlanta for many generations to come,” said the archbishop.