By ERIKA ANDERSON, Special to the Bulletin | Published July 9, 2015
JOHNS CREEK—Father Paul Flood may be Irish, but his silver jubilee celebration was a festival of music, cultures and traditions from around the world.
Bagpipes, African drums and a traditional choral music enriched Father Flood’s 25th anniversary Mass Saturday, May 30, at St. Benedict Church, where he is pastor. Several priests concelebrated the Mass, including Bishop David P. Talley and Bishop George Nkuo of the Diocese of Kumbo, Cameroon.
Father Flood’s Irish heritage was featured proudly on his vestments, which featured a Celtic cross. The readings were proclaimed in both English and Spanish, highlighting the diversity of St. Benedict. African dancers beating drums brought forth the Book of the Gospels as they chanted and proclaimed “The Word of God is coming. Harden not your hearts.”
Bishop Talley offered the homily, where he jokingly shared Father Flood’s very large personnel file. Bishop Talley and Father Flood were seminarians at the same time and were ordained a year apart.
“I asked myself, why did he ask me to speak about him when I know everything that’s in this file?” the bishop joked. “This personnel file holds facts and figures. It does not define the mystery of the man. It does not describe Paul Anthony Flood as a dancing man—and this is a dancing man. … A personnel file does not tell people he is a piano man. When the congregation of priests gets together we might get puffed up and mad at each other. Paul will go over to the piano and sit down and start playing. Slowly people come around.”
Father Flood has served in several parishes in the archdiocese, including Corpus Christi Church, Stone Mountain; St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw; St. Mary Church, Toccoa, and its mission, St. Catherine Labouré Church, then in Commerce; Christ Our Hope Church, Lithonia; and St. Michael the Archangel Church, Woodstock. Since 2004 Father Flood has served as the pastor of St. Benedict—a shepherd for the parish, Bishop Talley said.
“His personnel file tells us all that. What it doesn’t say is this—it doesn’t say anything about the hearts that he has touched and the people that he has counseled, assisted, cared for, encouraged, supported, laughed with and cried with,” Bishop Talley said. “The mystery of the man is not contained in this file. But we continue to hold him in our hearts. Paul Anthony Flood laughs as easily as he breathes. He’s loyal to his friends.”
Bishop Talley spoke of Father Flood’s great love for his priest friends, and the way the pastor has taken care of those friends when they were sick or dying. Though Father Flood is human and makes mistakes, the bishop said, he is a man of great faith.
“This personnel file might have some evidence that he is a man and possibly over 25 years has made a mistake or two. But what it doesn’t show is what I know of the man. … He is one of my favorite bridges of Christ. He surrenders himself, his life, to serve others. In my 25 years, Paul Anthony Flood has not been part of a faction, a power struggle. Your pastor has been a bridge, bringing people together.”
The bishop called Father Flood “extraordinary.”
“He is a priest’s priest, and I rejoice in him.”
Bishop Nkuo said he had come all the way from Cameroon just for this occasion.
“The relationship with this parish is so dear to my heart, because the relationship between Father Paul and myself and the diocese brings so much joy to my people. Thank you for changing the lives of so many,” he said.
Father Philip Ryan has known Father Flood since the two were in seminary together in Ireland.
“He has been a true, loyal and good friend to me,” Father Ryan said. “He’s been a shoulder to lean on. … I’m so grateful for your love and your friendship and for the times we have enjoyed together.”
Father Flood, true to self, danced his way to the pulpit to address the congregation. Father Flood later celebrated his jubilee in Ireland with his family.
“I thank my parents for all the sacrifices they made to get me here,” he said, his voice filled with emotion. “I am also thankful to the parish of St. Benedict.”
“The Archdiocese of Atlanta has opened its doors to me way back, and I am grateful,” he said. “I am conscious always that it’s nothing about what I do, but it certainly is the grace that God has lavished upon us.”
The Mass concluded with bagpipers from North Atlanta Pipes and Drums playing “God Bless America.” A party featuring live entertainment was held immediately after the jubilee Mass.
Jim Carroll spent eight years as the facilities manager at St. Benedict. Father Flood, he said, buried his mother and brother and was a great comfort to his family.
“We have a mutual trust and respect in each other. He’s real, but he’s very loving,” he said. “He’s a friend—but he is able to balance being a pastor, a friend and a boss.”
Sara Lorusso is the music director at St. Benedict and has known Father Flood for 20 years. She said no one knows how to work a crowd like the pastor.
“Every Mass, there are 1,000 people coming out and they all want to talk to him. He talks to every single one of them,” she said. “All of them feel like he’s their special friend. That’s a real gift he has.”