By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published March 17, 2016
Some photos age as time goes by, but others seem to defy the rules and look just as fresh despite being taken a decade ago.
That’s the case with one I took in November 2006 of Patrick Jackson. Recently I reconnected with Jackson, who is now a freshman at St. Pius X High School, Atlanta.
When I originally photographed him, he was a 5-year-old kindergartener dressed up as St. Patrick during the All Saints Mass at St. Thomas More School in Decatur.
He wore a green T-shirt over his school uniform, and atop his head was a green painted cardboard miter displaying a shamrock. He held a carefully crafted wooden shamrock staff in his hands. The miter and staff were the work of his father, Cody, who represents the Irish side of the family.
By that time, participating in the school’s All Saints Mass had become a family tradition. Patrick’s oldest brother Tommy, 23, portrayed St. Sebastian, his second oldest brother Robby, 20, had been St. Benedict, and his next oldest brother Joey, 18, was St. Martin of Tours. Patrick’s March 16 birth at Piedmont Hospital, Atlanta, was so close to St. Patrick’s Day that his parents named him after the saint.
When it was his turn to dress up as a saint, there was no question who he would be.
“When I was younger and first learned about St. Patrick, I was so excited that I shared a name with a saint that I wanted my family to call me St. Patrick around the house,” said Jackson.
When he was in kindergarten, his class birthday party was followed by a St. Patrick’s Day party the next day.
“Since I wanted to be called St. Patrick, I simply assumed that I was having two birthday parties for myself,” he said.
Patrick has always had a fascination with speech writing and public speaking. When he was in Mary Nicolatos’ kindergarten class and he learned his oldest brother was preparing for an oratorical contest, he also wanted to write a speech. He was too young to compete, but once all the contestants completed their speeches and while the judges were deliberating, Patrick was allowed to deliver his speech on the Fourth Amendment to those in attendance.
“Pat is a kid I will never forget,” said Nicolatos. “Anytime I think of Pat, I have a smile on my face. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a sense of humor.”
In middle school at St. Thomas More he actually participated in the oratorical contest. In the sixth and eighth grade Patrick advanced to the school level competition, and in the seventh grade he advanced to regional competition.
Patrick said by the time he reached the age of 12 he began to see how important the role of faith was in his daily life and that he did have a relationship with God.
“One major influence on my faith was my middle school religion teacher, Mr. Andy Scantlebury, who helped me explore my faith and my relationship with God,” said Patrick. “Overall, I feel that faith has played a very important role in my life in helping me see the life I need to live and strive for.”
These days Patrick runs on the high school track team. This past season he wrestled for St. Pius X in the 113-pound weight class. He was one of five freshmen on the varsity wrestling team and one of four freshmen to make sectionals, the next to the last stage before moving on to state competition.
Patrick has been involved in the altar server program at St. Thomas More Church since the third grade. He is also one of the lectors who read and proclaim God’s word at the 5:30 p.m. youth Masses.
At this point Patrick is not sure what college or university he would like to attend, but he feels inclined to follow in the footsteps of his parents, both chemical engineers.
For the past two years Patrick has taken part in the Catholic Heart Work Camp, an organization that offers parish youth groups and adult leaders service opportunities. The first year he worked in Charlotte, North Carolina, cleaning up the grounds of a retirement home and a center for people suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. Last summer he worked in Jacksonville, Florida, helping paint the exterior of a church. “The camp helps me to see how service and faith work hand in hand,” said Patrick. “In this Year of Mercy I find that service to the less fortunate will take on even more significance.”
Then & Now is an occasional series appearing in The Georgia Bulletin. The series features people who were captured in a newspaper photograph published nearly 10 or more years ago, along with current news about them.