By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published December 9, 2010
In October, a team of walkers from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish completed the annual 5K AIDS Walk, led by parochial vicar Father Juan Anzora and Nancy Koughan, the team captain.
Each year for the past 10 years the parish AIDS ministry at IHM has organized a walk team and raised an impressive amount of funds. This year IHM was joined at the walk by a large team from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Atlanta and its pastor, Father T.J. Meehan. During the walk, the team also met with a walk team from Simon’s Call, the AIDS ministry at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Atlanta.
“The AIDS Walk has become an important parish-wide effort at IHM and a major focus of parish activity during September and October,” said Kathy Parker, a co-leader of the IHM AIDS ministry.
Every year since 2006, the team has earned “Gold Team” status by placing among the top 20 teams for fundraising among more than 100 teams participating in the walk. In 2009, IHM ranked number eight and in 2008 they placed sixth.
Each year since 2008, including this year, the group has raised at least $10,000 for the AIDS Alliance for Faith and Health, an ecumenical AIDS service organization that provides spiritual, psycho-social, nutritional and other support services to long-term survivors of AIDS in the metro area.
“Our final total raised on that date was $10,478, our best record yet,” said Parker.
Parker said she wanted to share the story “to inspire other parishes to get involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS as part of God’s call of service to neighbor and community.”
The need for help remains great, she said. Georgia ranks eighth among the 50 states in the cumulative number of AIDS cases.
“The HIV/AIDS problem has not gone away and will not go away any time soon, especially in Georgia. In fact, with increasing numbers of survivors, thanks to effective treatments, there are even more persons living with AIDS who need compassion and support, especially if they are on a regimen of AIDS medications which can have adverse side effects,” said Parker. “These individuals also need to be supported to avoid behaviors that can continue to transmit the disease.”
“IHM Parish feels very strongly that it is absolutely critical for us to be positive witnesses for Christ and his church in the metro Atlanta community,” she added. “We want to show Atlanta that at least one Catholic parish cares enough to walk and raise a serious amount of money. The walk organizers know us very well now and value our consistent participation and commitment.”