Published May 10, 2012
St. Thomas Aquinas will celebrate its 40th anniversary on Friday, May 25, with Mass at 7:30 p.m., followed by an ice cream social. The Mass will be celebrated by Atlanta Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama.
Founded as a mission parish of the Cathedral of Christ the King in 1959, the church was initially comprised of only 10 families. Sunday Masses were held in the old community center on Oak Street while Bible studies took place in the homes of parishioners.
As the area grew in the late 1960s, the mission moved from the community building to a bank and eventually to neighboring public schools. In 1972, ground was broken on a 17-acre plot in what was then a rural landscape. The mission was raised to full parish status on June 1, 1972, and just nine months later, the first structure was completed. The 10 families had grown to nearly 275. Today the parish includes some 3,600 families.
In 1993, the growing number of Spanish-speaking Catholics in the area prompted the parish’s first Hispanic ministry. From an occasional outdoor Mass on Frazier Street in Roswell, this ministry has grown to several weekly celebrations of the Eucharist in Spanish, a flourishing religious education program and many social services. As a result, many events throughout the liturgical year at the parish are bilingual.
Former pastor Father Albert Jowdy, who now shepherds St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceville, began the Hispanic ministry in the early 1990s. “One of the things I’m proudest of is how gracefully the community welcomed the ‘strangers in our midst,’” he said of the parish.
According to longtime parishioner Paul Caruso, hospitality has always been a hallmark of St. Thomas Aquinas parish. “When I walk in the door, I feel like it’s where I’m supposed to be,” Caruso said. “It’s like when I go home and unlock the key at night, it’s like going into my place.”
Adult faith formation and outreach are two other components of parish life that have evolved over the past few decades. Small faith communities began in 1989 with the “Renew” program, and today more than 30 of these communities come together on a regular basis to share their faith and to reach out to one another.
One of the parish’s founding members and the current director of adult faith formation and evangelization, Terry Zobel said, “When you have a laity that is informed about their faith, where a relationship with God is encouraged and fostered, where there’s a safe place to talk about God, it breeds outreach. That’s been a hallmark of St. Thomas Aquinas from the very beginning.”
The parish outreach activites include twinning with a parish in Haiti; offering catechesis, sacraments and pastoral care to prisoners; participating in an annual ecumenical Habitat for Humanity build; annual mission trips to Appalachia and other parts of the world; a support team for men and women serving in the military; a partnership with the YMCA for an after-school program; and partnering with North Fulton Community Charities to serve the area’s poor and needy.
St. Thomas Aquinas Church invites all friends of the parish to come and celebrate 40 years as a parish community on May 25.