By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published April 20, 2018
ATLANTA—Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, learned to be a leader and administrator on the Marist School campus, but he has not kept his expertise inside the brick entrance to the Brookhaven school.
He and Marist School have supported Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School since before it opened four years ago. Marist, run by the Society of Mary religious congregation, served as an endorser of the Jesuit project to offer students from metro Atlanta families with limited income a college-prep Catholic high school education. Marist also allowed the initial teachers and staff at Cristo Rey to be counted as their employees for insurance and other benefits.
Deacon Bill Garrett, president of Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, said the bishop serves as his mentor, helping him navigate through many educational and mission issues at the fledgling high school.
“He’s one of my go-tos. Something that may be new to us, he’s dealt with dozens of times at Marist. He’s always willing to get on the phone,” he said.
Deacon Garrett said that, as a member of the Cristo Rey board of trustees, the new bishop tends to be quiet but adds insights to discussions with a skill for spotlighting key issues.
“The words he speaks are certainly worth listening to,” he said.
Deacon Garrett said Bishop Konzen has “excellent attributes for a good shepherd of the flock.”
“I think he’s a wonderful human being,” said Deacon Garrett. “He’s a holy man. He’s dedicated to the youth of the church.”
Marist Father Jim Duffy, pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Atlanta, has known Bishop Konzen for more than 40 years. They were both ordained in 1979.
The new bishop comes to the position with a “wealth of knowledge” about being a leader, learned from his classroom experience and from serving in key roles in the Marist religious community, he said.
His experience in listening to people will serve him well, Father Duffy said.
“He’s a very good listener, very insightful,” he said.
“He’ll walk with you in the journey, in whatever situation is at hand,” he said.
Within days of his February appointment as bishop, he and members of the Marist community hosted an annual gathering of archdiocesan priests for Mardi Gras.
Bishop Konzen helped everyone get what they needed, Father Victor Galier said. There was no question if he should be serving, as the newly announced bishop pitched in with the entertaining, he said.
“Joel was just doing what Joel needed to do,” he said.
Father Galier is the dean of the central district of parishes in the archdiocese. He has seen the new bishop in different settings, from engaging with youngsters to serving as an administrator. Father Galier is pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church, Atlanta.
He said the first thing to know about the new bishop is how “kind and loving” the man is, whether you are a longtime friend or a person he just met. Father Galier recalled how the two priests crossed paths at a restaurant. He went out of his way to greet Father Galier’s guests, who were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary, turning his attention from the adults and attentively listening when a youngster at the table wanted to chat with him.
Decades of ministry at Marist School shaped the new bishop, from being a leader of the school community to recognizing and developing skills in others.
As a longtime principal, Father Galier said the new bishop learned how to be an accomplished administrator.
“It’s a good gift he brings to the church,” he said.