By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 1, 2009
Crowds began to fill the sanctuary of Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church two hours before the first ordination of a bishop in the Atlanta Archdiocese.
Anne Tighe, 83, a former teacher, sat nearly alone in the airy sanctuary saying her prayers, as sunlight streamed through the windows.
“Everybody is coming. I’m so pleased we have such a nice, holy bishop,” said Tighe. She had misplaced her tickets, but the tickets were recovered after prayers to St. Anthony, the patron saint of finding lost items.
It was her first time in the Baptist church at 2715 Peachtree Road, which resembles a New England-style church with its high-reaching steeple. She agreed the setting where she would pray during an ordination Mass was unique.
“Yes, it is odd, especially since Christ the King Cathedral is right next door,” said Tighe.
People holding blue tickets gained entry to the Baptist church, across East Wesley Road from the Cathedral, where Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory ordained Bishop Luis Zarama. Family, close friends and hundreds of clergy filled the reserved seats in the Cathedral. In the two-level Baptist sanctuary, an oversized screen gave the large crowd a view of the elaborate proceedings. After the Mass, Bishop Zarama walked to Second-Ponce to greet the crowd gathered there.
“I think we need to be here for him,” said Erica Kitts, 54, an administrator of Prince of Peace Church, Flowery Branch, who had a copy of the “Magnificat” prayer magazine beside her.
Her parish hosted a party for its members to watch together the nearly three-hour ceremony on TV. But Kitts drove the 45 minutes to Atlanta to experience it.
“I’m so excited. I’ve never been a part of an ordination of a bishop. The closer the better. This is once in a lifetime. Maybe some of the incense can drift this way,” she said.
“We’ve needed him for such a long time. The archbishop, with his (demanding) schedule, he needs help. I look forward to having his presence in our parish,” she said.
Pride filled the Hispanic Catholics who filled many rows and who make up close to 50 percent of the 750,000 Catholics in the 69-county archdiocese.
Marielyna Broome and daughter, Rozlin, waited in the bright sunshine before the ceremony. “My Catholic and Colombian roots bring me here,” said Rozlin.
“I’d ask for his prayers for the growth of the spirituality of young adults as we grow in faith,” said Rozlin, 37, who works for UPS.
Nicaragua native Alba Ocon, a parishioner of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Alpharetta, said she was drawn by the uniqueness of the event.
“For me, it is an event we don’t see everyday. A new bishop is like a new apostle of Christ. I have not seen one ordination in my life,” she said.
Carmen Ferrans, who worships at St. Peter Chanel Church in Roswell, said she was proud to come from Bishop Zarama’s native country.
“I am Colombian. He is the first Colombian bishop in the U.S. I don’t want to miss that,” she said.
The Galindo family, husband Abel, wife Marcela and daughter Susana, who belong to the Catholic Mission, Duluth, said they share a common Latino heritage, but also have a deep affection for the new bishop, when they got to know him when he was assigned briefly to St. Benedict Church.
“Every time we meet (Bishop) Zarama, he has shown us much humility and has impacted our lives greatly,” said Abel.
“He is so special,” said Marcela. “He transmits something different.”