Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Social Worker Before Seminary

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 17, 2013

ATLANTA—Before the seminary, Bishop-designate David P. Talley was a young social worker, trying to prevent child abuse in housing projects that dotted Atlanta’s Fulton County.

The turmoil faced by families at the crime-filled complexes was “incredibly violent and horrifying and beyond belief,” a reality he confronted with colleagues from the Fulton County Division of Family and Children Services.

Most of the housing complexes where he visited families in crisis in the early 1980s have been razed by the Atlanta Housing Authority because they were seen as neighborhoods with a high concentration of poverty and violence.

In that turmoil, the future Catholic bishop, who holds a master’s degree in clinical social work, said he found “salvific” strengths among his black colleagues that expanded his heart.

“They allowed me to experience and become a visitor in a whole new world. We loved each other and were bonded by the difficult work we did together … and this allowed us to get to a place that was beyond the stereotypes of race and class,” he said in an email.

For Bishop-designate Talley, the road from social work to priesthood was not too much of a leap.

He looks back at his work as “faith in action” and as striving to be an “instrument of healing and justice and reconciliation.” For him, it was an opportunity to follow the strong words of St. James: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourself.”