By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published May 3, 2018
NEWNAN—Parishioners of St. George Church gathered for a Mass of Thanksgiving Saturday, April 21, at Oak Hill Cemetery in Newnan.
Father Henry Atem, pastor, celebrated Mass in honor of Ellis and Effie Mansour, whose home was the site of the first Mass ever celebrated in Coweta County 80 years ago. Concelebrating was Father Alvaro Avendaño, assisted by Deacons Steve Beers, Ben Gross and Steve Swope.
“Our founding families, who were migrants from Lebanon, were courageous and steadfast in the practice of their faith,” said Father Atem. “Since there was no Catholic church close by, they used to drive to Atlanta, Griffin or LaGrange for Mass.”
In 1938, they requested permission from the bishop of the Diocese of Savannah-Atlanta to have Mass in Newnan and Ellis Mansour opened his home.
“By asking the bishop permission to celebrate Mass here, it was a demonstration of their resolve and determination in a region that at the time was not very welcoming to the Catholic faith,” said the pastor. “Their courage is a testimony of the faith that they had in Christ and a sincere love for the Church.”
The early founders of the parish were primarily businessmen who owned stores in Newnan and whose faith was integral in their lives.
“Our community today is deeply enriched by their selfless sacrifices and their faith which shines forth as an example,” said Father Atem.
Attending the noon Mass was June Thomas, the oldest grandchild of the Mansours. Thomas attended the first Mass in her grandparents’ home.
The Mass marked the beginning of a year of grace and gratitude leading up to the 50th anniversary of St. George’s building dedication in June 2019. A reception followed at the parish hall.
Other upcoming events in the year of grace and gratitude include May crownings during the weekend of May 5-6, and a May 18 Mass and celebration to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Father Atem’s ordination to the priesthood.
St. George is home to more than 1,200 families, representing many nations of origin. Archbishop Thomas Donnellan dedicated the church on Roscoe Road in June 1969, and it was elevated to parish status in 1974.