Published August 16, 2012
The parishioners of St. George Church rolled out the welcome mat for their new pastor, Father Henry Atem.
The welcome reception at the 771 Roscoe Road church was filled with well-wishers and folks wanting to introduce themselves to the community’s new spiritual leader.
Father Atem recalled the celebration. He said many people came up to him to tell him “we stand ready to support you.”
“I find it a very easygoing community. It’s very warm,” said Father Atem, who was appointed pastor by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory recently.
Father Atem, who is 33, served in two different parishes as parochial vicar before his appointment to his first pastorate. His first three years as a priest were spent at St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell, and then at St. Patrick Church, Norcross, for one year.
The time as a parochial vicar is good training ground, he said. In seminary, a person learns about theology, but after ordination, you learn what it means in people’s lives and in the parish community in very practical ways, he said.
“In the parish, you learn to put it in a human context,” said Father Atem.
A native of Cameroon, Africa, he is, in fact, a Georgia Bulldog, too. He received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and accounting at the university in Athens. He spent four years managing a convenience store before seminary. He was ordained in 2008. For fun, he enjoys reading, playing tennis and soccer and writing.
He said he has a passion for catechesis and for passing on the faith to others.
After just a year at St. Patrick Church, Father Atem said he was surprised to be asked to become a pastor, but he said he knows to always be open to the prompting of the Spirit.
“When you’re called, the Spirit supplies,” he said.
Some 1,200 families are registered at St. George Church, with about a third of the parish Hispanic. The former pastor, Father Austin Fogarty, was transferred to be the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta.