Published September 12, 2013
In the Sept. 12, 1963 edition of The Georgia Bulletin, plans were announced for “Operation Understanding,” a project that would open every parish church in the Atlanta Archdiocese for tours on the same Sunday afternoon in November, with lay people trained to give explanations of what visitors would see in a Catholic church. The project was in response to Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan’s pastoral letter on Christian Unity. The Atlanta Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Men was sponsoring the program and parish men’s clubs were to organize the event in their respective churches. Reflecting the newness of non-Catholics visiting a Catholic church, and the dawn of the ecumenical movement, the article said, “Catholic laymen will be given an unparalleled opportunity to promote the ultimate goal of Christian Unity by exhibiting knowledge of and enthusiasm for their own faith to their non-Catholic friends and neighbors.” The explanations were to include the baptismal font, Stations of the Cross, confessionals, vestments, sacred vessels, the altar, sacristy and sanctuary, the missal, Bible and religious articles. If a parish had a school, it would be included in the tour. Visitors were also to be introduced to the pastor and any teaching sisters in the parish, have refreshments, be given an opportunity to ask questions and receive a souvenir program. No religious service was to be held. “Should Catholics be invited to similar projects (without religious services) in non-Catholic churches, they will be free to accept if they so desire,” the article said. “Operation Understanding” was to be held Sunday, Nov. 10, 1963.
Ground was broken for a new St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens on Sept. 10, 1963. The new hospital was designed to be a six-floor, air-conditioned facility with 135 beds, a project estimated to cost $3 million. According to the article in The Georgia Bulletin, the project was being financed by a Hill-Burton grant of $1.08 million, a campaign fund, donated salaries of the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and bank loans covering about 40 percent of the project. Those at the groundbreaking included Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan, Athens Mayor Jack R. Wells and Frank Wilson, president of the Georgia Hospital Association and administrator of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. The new hospital would replace a 25-year-old St. Mary’s Hospital facility. That building was dedicated on July 10, 1938. At the request of civic and medical groups, Archbishop Gerald P. O’Hara was instrumental in obtaining the services of the Missionary Sisters to come to Athens to staff the hospital. When they arrived, the existing front wing of the hospital was a vacant 45-bed hospital. It had been built in 1918 by Drs. Fullilove and Proctor, who had founded the first St. Mary’s Hospital in 1906. The hospital was closed in 1935 after the death of Dr. Fullilove. The Missionary Sisters added two wings to the hospital in 1941 and 1947, bringing it to a capacity of 100 beds. The historical article said, “Hospital records from the days of Drs. Fullilove and Proctor recall that the first ambulance was a covered milk wagon equipped only with a cot. It would take half a day to transport a patient to the hospital as each doctor had to hitch his horse to the wagon.”