By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published July 21, 2011
Father James Flanagan is serving in his first pastorate at St. James the Apostle Church, McDonough, where he hopes to help strengthen the spiritual lives of the faithful.
“I’m definitely looking forward to working with and teaching the wonderful people of St. James about how beautiful their Catholic faith really is. Along with that, I hope to help them grow deeper in their faith by participation in the sacramental life of the Church, which will strengthen them to bring the message of the Gospel to those with whom they live and work,” he wrote in an e-mail.
He became pastor on March 4 at the 1,400-family parish. A formal installation with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and a parish reception took place on June 11. The previous pastor, Father John Murphy, is now pastor of Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City.
Father Flanagan, 37, is one of two first-time pastors named by Archbishop Gregory this year. A native of Miami, he is a five-year U.S. Air Force veteran and worked as a property manager for a time. After his military service, he graduated from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, in 2001 with a bachelor of arts in humanities and Catholic culture. His seminary study took place at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., where he received a master of divinity and a master of arts in theology with a concentration in church history. He was ordained in 2008 and served at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta, before his appointment as pastor.
When he was ordained, Father Flanagan credited his favorite quote to St. Catherine of Siena: “If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze.”
He described his leadership style as “certainly collaborative, but as one who tries to lead by example.”
“I was very fortunate to be at an assignment where I was exposed to a wide variety of priestly duties right from the start. Undoubtedly, the breadth of that experience was incredibly helpful,” he said.
After serving for a few years as a priest, Father Flanagan said one bit of information that the seminary never taught him is “my schedule no longer is my own.”
St. James the Apostle is the only parish in Henry County, one of the fastest growing counties in the United States in the last decade. The parish was started in 1966 when Father James Anderson, a Redemptorist priest, purchased the land where the existing church was built. It was dedicated in 1971 and named in honor of Father Anderson’s patron saint.
Father Flanagan said one of the parish standout projects is its active St. Vincent de Paul Society. The members started a food pantry, which hands out about 60 bags of groceries to individuals and families each month. The pantry marks its second anniversary in August. The project involves a cross-section of the parish, from youngsters to older women and men, he said.