By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published January 9, 2014
ATLANTA—Although officially retired from active ministry, many diocesan priests continue dedicated ministries serving in Atlanta and beyond.
Father Richard Morrow, Msgr. William Hoffman, Father Walter Foley and Father Patrick McCormick have a combined 192 years of service as priests.
‘I’m 84 and I’m still needed’
Father Richard “Dick” Morrow has been a priest for 58 “and a half” years. He has served at seven parishes in the archdiocese and now resides at the rectory of the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta.
“It’s always been fulfilling,” said Father Morrow. “I’m 84 and I’m still needed.”
In his discussions with married couples, he often asks when was their happiest time. Usually, they say the happiest days were when the children were young and they felt needed. He compares that to his experience as a priest.
Father Morrow moved to the Cathedral rectory as the 1996 summer Olympics got underway and started a tradition for all races along Peachtree Road.
Father Morrow takes his oils for the sick in his pocket and his stole to serve as both priest and race spectator.
During the most recent Peachtree Road Race, a runner collapsed and Father Morrow was on hand to say prayers for the man’s health. A pair of Grady paramedics arrived by bicycle to resuscitate the man. “We were a team,” said Father Morrow.
The runner, who was not a Catholic, survived and recently visited Father Morrow to thank him for the prayers. “He was so happy,” said the priest.
Father Morrow helps celebrate some Sunday Masses at the Cathedral, mostly weekday Masses, as well as weddings and funerals for former parishioners.
“I hear confessions,” he added.
Father Morrow visits Catholic patients at nearby Piedmont Hospital and still provides counseling. He is also a Vicar for Clergy and serves on the Council of Priests.
A Vicar for Clergy is often described as being an “ombudsman” for priests. “But that’s not really it,” explained Father Morrow. He describes the job as being a brother or chaplain to his fellow priests. “It’s one or the other,” he added.
“I try and come up with ways to get the guys together,” said Father Morrow. That might involve a meal or a friendly soccer competition.
The Council of Priests keeps Father Morrow busy as well. The group advises Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory on a variety of issues.
Father Morrow was the very first pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Carrollton. Local businessman Eaton Chalkley and his famous wife, actress Susan Hayward, donated the land for the church. Father Morrow knew and respected Chalkley and both husband and wife converted to Catholicism.
Good Shepherd Church in Cumming was Father Morrow’s last full-time pastorate. He also served at churches in Smyrna, Hapeville and Buford.
A native of Connecticut, Father Morrow first came to Georgia with Glenmary Home Missions. At that time, Atlanta had only 42 priests total. So Georgia was truly “missions” work then.
“The trouble today is boys don’t want to make a commitment,” said Father Morrow about priesthood as a vocation.
“A priest today has to be imaginative,” said Father Morrow. “Look at Pope Francis.”
While he is active in retirement, Father Morrow knows there are other priests whose health is not good and who don’t have any family here.
“They all like company,” he said.
Helping as needed, in Atlanta or Anchorage
Msgr. William “Bill” Hoffman has been a priest for 52 years and has been retired for the last 10. He lives at St. George Village in Roswell where he often concelebrates Mass for the residents.
“I get requests,” added Msgr. Hoffman about filling in both long-term and short-term for priests who have to be away from their posts.
“I’m no longer a pastor,” he said. If a parishioner comes up after Mass and says, “Oh, the parking lot or … oh, the collections,” his response is “I’m just a visitor.”
He answers the phone as “Father Bill.” Raised in Tallahassee, Fla., and Gainesville, Ga., he was ordained a priest in Rome, Italy, in 1961.
Msgr. Hoffman’s ministry has included many parish assignments such as being the first pastor of St. John Vianney Church, Lithia Springs. He also has served as pastor of St. Joseph Church, Dalton, St. Jude Church, Sandy Springs, and St. Michael Church, Gainesville.
“Wherever I’ve been, I’ve been happy,” he said.
While serving with the Missionary Society of St. James in Peru, Msgr. Hoffman learned Spanish. In the late 1960s and ‘70s the pope was asking that North America share its priests with Latin America. “So I volunteered,” said Msgr. Hoffman.
For three semesters, he taught at a seminary to increase the number of priests in Peru. Now the reverse is occurring; Latin American priests are coming to North America to help fill in gaps. “It’s a real success story,” he said.
Upon his return to Atlanta, he served as director of the Hispanic Apostolate of the archdiocese between 1982 and 1986.
In addition to serving as a supply priest for parishes, Msgr. Hoffman also spends his retirement in prison ministry, celebrating Mass on a regular basis at Hays and Arrendale state prisons.
He is also a team priest for the Worldwide Marriage Encounter and the Retrouvaille ministries. Retrouvaille serves couples dealing with marital difficulties.
During his retirement years, Msgr. Hoffman has spent some Lenten seasons serving as a priest for the Diocese of Anchorage in the Aleutian Islands.
He said he has never regretted retiring.
“I never gave a thought to retirement. I’ve been very busy,” he said. “You don’t have the pastoral responsibilities.”
Continuing his service to the Church, Msgr. Hoffman remains actively serving. There are, however, priests at St. George Village dealing with health issues who aren’t able to be out and about.
“They enjoy meeting former parishioners,” he added.
Reading, writing, golf as ‘physical therapy’
Father Walter Foley, a priest for 37 years, lives in Hartwell where he is currently writing about the Mass and what it’s really all about.
Father Foley was serving as a brother with the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Uganda when he decided to become a priest at the age of 40. He called a priest he knew in Atlanta to begin the process.
Father Foley said he also picked Georgia because if you turn a state map upside down, it resembles that of Uganda. Although he is a New Jersey native, he once told a man who asked where he grew up that it was in the “middle of Africa.”
Retired now for 13 years, Father Foley serves as a supply priest to parishes when their priest has to be gone. He says it takes him about a week to prepare a homily, whereas other priests can just deliver one on the spot.
“I’m not that bright,” he joked.
Father Foley just celebrated his 85th birthday. “You come to the realization you’re like old automobiles,” he said. Repair and maintenance work are needed and one has to accept it.
Having just read more in-depth theology about the Gloria, Father Foley is writing materials he hopes the average Catholic can better understand. Another topic of writing interest is the use of the word “form” and all of the different forms of Jesus.
“I’ve had so much fun doing it,” said Father Foley about his writing and research. “I’m still interested in learning.”
A student of history and avid reader, he also plays a bit of golf.
“We don’t call that golf up here,” he said. “It’s physical therapy.”
Father Foley’s golf companions are in their 80s, age 91, and sometimes youngsters in their 70s.
“I play golf with a bunch of Protestants,” said Father Foley. His ecumenical outreach includes hearing golf cart confessions.
His service in the archdiocese has included assignments as parochial vicars at Holy Family Church, Marietta; St. Thomas More Church, Decatur; St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn; and as pastor of St. Joseph Church, Dalton.
“I still have great friends down there,” he said about his connection to Lilburn.
As a priest, Father Foley has always enjoyed teaching CCD to both children and adults, particularly when adults began to read Scripture and tie it into where they were in today’s world. “It was wonderful,” said Father Foley.
Father Foley worships at Sacred Heart in Hartwell but says he tries to stay in the background as every priest or pastor has his own “rapport” with people wherever they go.
Although he’s not able to travel as far as he once could to be a supply priest, he enjoys helping whenever and wherever able.
“I’ll serve where I can serve,” he said.
Outreach preacher for Cross Catholic
Father Patrick McCormick was ordained in Rome, Italy, in 1968. After years of ministry as a diocesan priest in Atlanta and as a U.S. Navy chaplain, he is now a civilian priest at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Fla. He lives at St. Dominic’s Church in Panama City and is also an outreach preacher for Cross Catholic.
From 1969 to 1973, Father McCormick was an assistant pastor at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta; St. John the Evangelist Church, Hapeville; and Corpus Christi Church, Stone Mountain. After serving as a faculty member for the North American College seminary in Rome, Father McCormick returned to Atlanta to be pastor at St. Mary’s Church, Toccoa and as the first pastor of Sacred Heart in Hartwell.
Then, it was off to the Navy to serve as a chaplain across the globe including command chaplain of Combined Support Transition Command in Kabul, Afghanistan.
It’s been the preaching and giving instruction in the Catholic faith that Father McCormick has most enjoyed.
“While in Afghanistan, I prepared over 50 for baptism and confirmation. The Italian Embassy was 200 yards from the base where I was stationed in Kabul. After 13 classes, I would take them over to the Italian Embassy — running through no-man’s land — on Sunday evening for the 5 p.m. Mass there,” he wrote in an email.
The Italian Embassy had the only Catholic Church permitted in Afghanistan by the government.
“The chaplain at the Italian Embassy church, an Italian Barnabite priest, though not a bishop, had ordinary jurisdiction for all of Afghanistan from the Vatican, meaning he could confirm anyone at any time. He was most happy to baptize and confirm our catechumens and candidates,” said Father McCormick.
Since retiring after 20 years of active Navy duty, Father McCormick entered a three-month sabbatical program at the North American College in Rome.
The U.S. Air Force has hired 15 civilian priests, including Father McCormick, to meet the pastoral needs at Air Force chapels within the United States. This enables the Air Force to deploy active duty chaplains to combat areas.
As civilian priests, they cover all the pastoral aspects of a typical Catholic program at an Air Force base chapel, including weekend and weekday Mass, religious education, R.C.I.A., pastoral visits to parishioners in the hospital, counseling, marriage and baptismal preparation, he said. In addition, he presents prayers at ceremonies, makes presentations about the Catholic program at the chapel, and is required to put in 80 hours of work every two weeks as a federal government employee.
As an outreach preacher for the charitable organization Cross Catholic, Father McCormick visits a different church one Sunday a month to speak, and request donations. Cross Catholic assists the poor in developing areas of the world including food and education programs, shelters for abused women and safe water projects.
“In October, I spent five days in Guatemala with a group from Cross monitoring several projects that we raise funds to support,” said Father McCormick.
Traveling to Atlanta when possible is also something that Father McCormick enjoys.
“I recently participated in the priests’ retreat at Young Harris in September. I try to spend time in Sacred Heart Parish, Hartwell each year, filling in for the pastor, when possible, and visiting many friends there. It was my favorite parish,” he said.
Being able to live at St. Dominic, a vibrant parish is important for this retired Atlanta priest. Father McCormick covers weekend Masses there twice a month and is active in the men’s group and youth activities. He occasionally helps at the other local Catholic parishes.
“As retired priests it is important to be integrated into an active church community and to be a significant part of it,” said Father McCormick. “I think this is the most important aspect of retirement, being a part of the living Church. It is important that the parishioners as well as the pastor welcome retired priests into their midst.”