By ERIKA ANDERSON, Special to the Bulletin | Published December 11, 2014
ATLANTA—Decades ago, in a Catholic school outside Washington, D.C., Sister Joseph Clare recognized one student’s gift and talent for reading. When the teacher asked young Paula to read at Mass, little did she know she was fostering a lifelong love for communications and the Catholic faith.
Now, years later, as the new director of communications and advocacy for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Paula Gwynn Grant is stepping into a role that combines both of those loves.
Grant will succeed Patricia M. Chivers, who has been communications and advocacy director since 2006. Chivers will retire at the end of December.
A 20-year broadcast and public relations veteran, Grant joins the archdiocese with extensive media and communications experience. In her most recent position as vice president of communications and community development for the DeKalb County Housing Authority, she was responsible for all internal and external communications, as well as the social services outreach programs for the seniors and families the organization serves. For the past nine years, Grant has served as a producer and on-air host for DeKalb County Television, and since 1998 she has been a host and producer of community affairs programming for Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Prior to serving in DeKalb County, Grant worked as the Southeast vice president of fundraising and resident services for Mercy Housing Inc., which is headed by the Sisters of Mercy and is one of the country’s largest affordable housing organizations.
An enthusiastic, energetic communicator, Grant could not be more excited about her new role. She believes strongly she is where God wants her. She first applied for the director of communications role several years ago, but did not receive a response.
“It was a very important lesson for me in God’s timing. Sometimes we don’t understand things, and we allow ourselves to get very disappointed. But God is simply telling us to wait,” she said. “I feel very prepared for this now. My friends and family are overjoyed and keep saying how perfect this is for me. I can’t articulate just how much I know I’m supposed to be here right now.”
Grant will begin her new position Dec. 15 and work with Chivers until the end of the year. Grant said she will be grateful for her predecessor’s insights and plans to spend her first 100 days learning all she can.
“I like to think of myself as a good listener. I try to hear all sides, but when it’s time to call the play, I’ll call the play. But I do that after hearing from all the players from the perspective of the position they play. I plan to spend the first few months listening, watching and learning from the team. I’m ready for them to orient me—to share what works well, as well as suggestions for what needs improvement. These folks are on the ground doing the work—they’re the ones who really know what’s going on. I’m definitely going to be leaning on them.”
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said that Grant’s role is an essential one to the archdiocese.
“I look forward to having Paula join our archdiocesan staff in the vitally important role of director of communications and advocacy,” he said. “In that capacity, she will be able to bring her extensive professional skills to bear on informing the public of the many encouraging signs of life and mission that are occurring within this local Church. She will build upon the excellent legacy of faith and competence that Pat Chivers has provided in that office.”
The director of communications and advocacy serves as a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Atlanta and handles the responsibility for media relations and internal and external communications. The director also oversees archdiocesan ministries of respect life, social justice, disabilities, and prison and jail ministry.
Grant and her husband, Ray, have two children, a daughter, Rae, 18, and a son, Donovan, 13. They are parishioners of the Church of St. Ann in Marietta. Grant also occasionally serves as a cantor for her former parish, St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Smyrna. She has always considered herself an informed parishioner and hopes to approach her new position from that perspective.
“My prism has been as a parishioner, as a Catholic Christian reading The Georgia Bulletin and watching the news. I don’t want to lose that vantage point, because my job is to ensure our messaging resonates with the people in the pews,” she said. “I think we do a good job of explaining what we believe, but we don’t always explain why we believe. We need to defend the faith, and then explain the faith. That, to me, is witnessing. That, to me, is communications.”