Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

  • Joined by his brother clergy around the altar, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory served as the homilist and principal celebrant for the Jan. 14 Martin Luther King Jr. Eucharistic Celebration at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • (L-r) Mattie Nunnally of Atlanta, Ashley Moore, a senior at St. Pius X High School, Atlanta, and Trish Dykes, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Joseph School, Marietta, file through in an assembly line fashion colleting items for hygiene kits to be donated to St. Vincent de Paul Georgia and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception’s St. Francis Table Ministry. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • Young adult members of Women Blooming in Season and My Brother’s Keeper Youth Services, Inc., partnered with the Archdiocese of Atlanta to put bags of clothing and hygiene kits together for formerly incarcerated women. The items were donated to the Prison and Jail Ministry. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • Women and men of different cultures from around the archdiocese gather to pray the intercessory prayers in their native language. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • Four-year-old Aren Paige holds her mother’s hand during the praying of the Our Father at the Jan. 14 Martin Luther King Jr. Eucharistic Celebration. It took place at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta, where she and her mother are members. Photo By Michael Alexander
  • Dr. Kevin Johnson, foreground, the director of music and liturgy at Lyke House, the Catholic Center at the Atlanta University Center, leads the Lyke House Mass Choir in singing “We Shall Overcome” and “Keep the Faith.” Photo By Michael Alexander
  • Suchet Loois, Ph.D., and his wife Mathilde hold the Charles O. Prejean, Sr. Unity Award he received during this year’s Mass. Standing with Loois are fellow members of the Martin Luther King Jr. outreach group at his parish St. Pius X Church, Conyers. They include (l-r) Marie Noel, Patricia Barnes, Delores Dean and Yvonne Lee. Photo By Michael Alexander

Joined by his brother clergy around the altar, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory served as the homilist and principal celebrant for the Jan. 14 Martin Luther King Jr. Eucharistic Celebration at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta. Photo By Michael Alexander


MLK Mass-goers urged to fulfill Isaiah’s vision, King’s dream

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 26, 2017

ATLANTA—Prayers recited in 15 languages, a spirited choir singing songs of the civil rights era and women in brightly colored blue and white African dresses chanting and dancing as they escorted the Book of the Gospels: All showcased the diversity of the Catholic community at the observance of the birth of Atlanta’s own Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Mass celebrated Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Atlanta was about two miles from King’s birth home and the King National Historic Site. The national holiday commemorating the civil rights leader was Monday, Jan. 16.

Fifteen-year-old Colby Johnson of Most Blessed Sacrament Church, Atlanta, joins fellow Junior Daughters of the Knights of Peter Claver in a side pew during the Martin Luther King Jr. Eucharistic Celebration. Photo By Michael Alexander

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory called King one of God’s “intrepid dreamers” who encouraged people “to envision what God intended us to be and not just what we must grapple with each day.”

The role of the Catholic community is to bridge divisions, reaching people on the margins, no matter if the work seems small or insignificant.

“They too belong to God’s plan to bring all of his creation into perfect harmony and peace,” he told the congregation.

The Mass was one of three events organized around the national holiday for the Catholic community. A service project on Thursday, Jan. 12, at St. Anthony of Padua Church, Atlanta, was planned for young adults. Some 50 people heard about the work of Catholic Relief Services and packed more than 600 hygiene bags to distribute to the homeless and people in need. The final event on Sunday, Jan. 15, gathered students from archdiocesan and independent Catholic schools for an afternoon at St. Peter Claver Regional School, Decatur.

At the animated Mass, where the choir’s singing brought people to their feet, worshippers gathered. Young people dressed in their native garb carried the gifts of bread and wine up to the altar. Members of the Knights of Columbus and Knights of Peter Claver wore colorful plumed hats as an honor guard.

Honors for two lay leaders

The archdiocesan Office of Intercultural and Ethnic Diversity, which planned the Catholic events, recognized two individuals for their service to the community.

Suchet Loois, a parishioner from St. Pius X Church, Conyers, was applauded for his many contributions to serving others, including his leadership on the parish Haiti Humanitarian Fund and Martin Luther King outreach. He received the Charles O. Prejean Sr. Unity Award, named for the retired director of archdiocesan black Catholic ministry. It particularly recognizes efforts to reach across cultural, ethnic and religious divides, building cooperation within a parish, between parishes and with the larger community.

Raised by his mother in his native Haiti, Loois grew up in a household where devotion to Catholicism and prayers were part of life. It’s a custom that he and his wife, Mathilde, continue. They start their day together with the rosary.

Loois moved to Conyers in December 2006 from Alabama and quickly joined the parish. He is retired from Tuskegee University where he was a professor and associate vice president of international programs. Loois is a director of the Rotary Club of Conyers, a member of the Knights of Columbus, and prepares meals for Meals on Wheels, among other activities.

In his professional career, Loois’ research earned him a doctorate in animal agriculture and nutrition. During his career, he helped universities in Africa and the Caribbean strengthen their teaching, research and outreach programs. He also served as the country director for the U.S. Peace Corps in Jamaica.

“Unless you reach out to the poor, you are not fulfilling your mission on earth,” he said.

People must overcome looking at a person’s race and color, Loois said.

“In the eyes of God, all souls are colorless,” he said. “We have to act as though we are members of one family in Christ, because we are.”

Ashley Morris, center, associate director of the Office of Intercultural and Ethnic Diversity, presents the first Msgr. Edward B. Branch Young Adult Award to Samantha Smith, right, of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Atlanta, for her work with the parish’s teen ministry. Msgr. Branch looks on from the far left. Photo By Michael Alexander

Samantha Smith, 28, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Atlanta, received the Msgr. Edward B. Branch Young Adult Award. It was the first year for the recognition, named in honor of the recently retired Lyke House Catholic Center director.

Smith, who works in the archdiocesan Communications Office, was recognized for her work with the teen ministry at her childhood parish. She was a member of the last graduating sixth-grade class of the parish school in 2001. With Smith’s efforts, the size of the ministry has doubled to some 50 registered teenagers. Her mission has been to raise the profile of the young people in the parish, especially by encouraging them to share their talents.

“I feel inspired. They are so open and they are willing to hear different perspectives and learn from each other,” Smith said.

The ministry’s focus is to help young people look to the future and see God in that future, she said.

Smith said King’s message remains relevant for today’s young people. “It’s not just what the president can do or other elected officials, but we can make a strong impression in our communities. Our society focuses on how you can be bigger and better; where you are right now isn’t enough. The award during the Martin Luther King weekend reminds all of us where you are now and the contributions you have made are helpful and important.”

Today’s models of forgiveness

At the Mass celebrating King’s legacy, Archbishop Gregory compared King’s vision of justice and reconciliation with the well-known reading from the prophet Isaiah of the lion lying down with the lamb.

Athena Yum, left, and her older brother, Max, stand during the Jan. 14 Martin Luther King Jr. Eucharistic Celebration at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta. The siblings attend St. Andrew Kim Church in Duluth. Photo By Michael Alexander

“Dr. King was such a prophet as he summoned our entire nation to live out the lofty calling of our foundational documents to become the people of justice and peace that we are meant to become,” the archbishop said.

His homily highlighted recent headlines as examples of King’s legacy of bridging racial divides. Families of the nine black victims killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., forgave the white gunman, Dylann Roof, who was recently convicted and sentenced to death. New York police detective Steven McDonald forgave the black teen who shot him in 1986. The injury paralyzed the police officer for 30 years before he died earlier this month. He spent the three decades preaching forgiveness to his fellow officers and in countless other places, inspired by the Prayer of St. Francis.

Most people aren’t called to such extraordinary measures of reconciliation, so it is in daily living where women and men will face the choice whether to reach out to people who may be different or in need, Archbishop Gregory said.

“We all too often forget that those who serve and care for the poor, the immigrant and the neglected must be fulfilling Isaiah’s vision and Dr. King’s dream. And those people must more and more be us.”