By ROBIN ISAF, Special to the Bulletin | Published September 7, 2017
ATLANTA—St. Joseph Maronite Church of Atlanta has a new location on Glenridge Drive in Sandy Springs. The growing parish celebrated the first Mass in its new parish home May 14.
The move to the northern Atlanta suburbs marks a new chapter in the congregation’s history. The Maronite community, an Eastern rite Catholic Church in full communion with Rome, began settling in Georgia in the 1890s.
More than 100 years ago, a group of Maronite faithful living in Atlanta and attending Latin Mass became determined to begin a church of their own. They founded St. Joseph Church and petitioned the Bishop of Savannah-Atlanta for a priest. The bishop asked a Maronite priest he knew at seminary in Rome to serve the Atlanta community.
The group secured a room above a store for use as a chapel, and in 1911 St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church was born.
The small community later purchased a home to function as a church and rectory. In 1955—almost 50 years later—the congregation purchased and moved to a church on Seminole Avenue near downtown Atlanta, where the parish community continued to thrive and grow for 62 years.
In recent times, parishioners began plans to renovate and expand the Seminole Avenue church to meet the needs of the congregation. The proposed changes met with challenges and obstacles, but in the midst of the planning a parishioner discovered another unoccupied church building—The Apostles Church in Sandy Springs.
The building has a large sanctuary with a seating capacity for more than 400 people, an intimate chapel, a library, a conference room, several offices and meeting rooms, a courtyard garden, and a kitchen and hall shared with a preschool located in the building. The location is closer to the majority of the parishioners and to major corridors in the city.
St. Joseph Parish made an offer on the new building and the process moved quickly. The parish sold and closed on its Seminole Avenue property May 2, and closed on the Sandy Springs church May 5. The men, women and teens of St. Joseph rallied to pack the belongings from their beloved church and move to the new building.
The last Mass at the Seminole Avenue church was celebrated May 7 with an emotional service. Father Dominique Hanna, parish administrator, commemorated the founders and supporters through the decades. After Mass, parishioners each took one or more religious articles, including statues and paintings of the saints and the Stations of the Cross, and drove the items to the new church.
Father Hanna officiated a reverent and spiritually moving procession and prayer service accompanied by the choir for the blessing and presentation of the Blessed Sacrament to the new church. He celebrated the first Mass at the new church May 14 and more than 400 attended.
The congregation joined together afterward for a lavish, celebratory meal donated by a parishioner.
The parishioners are settling in to their new spiritual home, while welcoming newcomers from the area and working on plans to give the structure a Maronite appearance and atmosphere. The community feels the hand of God has blessed their parish by providing this new building, so full of potential for decades to come.
The new location of St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church is 6025 Glenridge Drive, Sandy Springs, GA 30328.