By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published April 23, 2019
ATLANTA—What does 14 years of ministry in one archdiocese look like? Atlanta Catholics answered this question with an array of pictures and memories of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory as he prepares to become the next Archbishop of Washington on May 21.
From their responses, his ministry has included Masses, celebrating the sacraments, the ice bucket challenge, support for Scouts, social media cutouts, graduations, ecumenical gatherings, school visits and building dedications, just to name a few.
And while these are only a few of the many memories we share, they are filled with love, honor and respect for an archbishop who has guided the Archdiocese of Atlanta through immense growth. The archdiocese is now home to 1.2 million Catholics, living in 69 counties in central and north Georgia.
“These have been 14 of the happiest years of my life,” said Archbishop Gregory. “I love you more than I can possibly express.”
“My first favorite memory was when I was confirmed and Archbishop Gregory knew my obscure saint—St. Catherine de Ricci. He knew how to pronounce her name, that she was the patron saint of healing, could bilocate and endured the Passion weekly. No one else I have ever met had heard of her. Through that small interaction, I felt connected to my archbishop as if we were both longtime friends.” – Joanie Santander, communications administrative assistant, Archdiocese of Atlanta
“In 2014, I was the youth minister at Our Lady of the Assumption. My high school youth group challenged Archbishop Gregory to the Ice Bucket Challenge. A friend of mine forwarded the email to the archbishop, but we never expected to hear from him! The next day, his office contacted me and asked, ‘When do you want him to come do it?’ He came to middle school youth group the following week and got soaked! What a great sport!” – Anne Stephens, communications director, Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Atlanta
“He was not feeling well that day, [he had] a sore throat and kept the homily short. He left right after Mass, but not before we captured this wonderful picture.” —Scott and Sandra Tanner
“Our Lady of Victory students, staff and community always appreciated Archbishop Gregory taking time out of his schedule to celebrate Mass with us and to visit our school.” — George Wilkerson, principal, Our Lady of Victory School, Tyrone
Carole Stephens had a stroke on Easter Sunday 2011, her daughter Anne Stephens explained. When they received an invitation to attend the Advent open house, her mother wanted to attend. Anne spoke to Archbishop Gregory a few days later at a Mass and told him about invitation to the open house and her mother’s condition. Archbishop Gregory instructed Anne to contact his office the next day to make special arrangements.
“His office went out of their way to make arrangements for mom to be able to attend—from special parking to an escort into his home,” Anne shared. “That day was amazing. When mom, her caregiver and I entered the kitchen, everyone stopped working and greeted her. When we entered the dining room, I could see the archbishop a few feet away in the foyer welcoming guests. When he saw us enter, he immediately excused himself from those guests and came straight over to mom. He took my mother’s hands in his, and said, ‘Mrs. Stephens, thank you for coming to my home.’ She just beamed up at him,” Anne said.
That day, archbishop took Carole around the first floor of the house and treated her like a first-class guest.
“He is a true shepherd, but that day, he became my hero as well. When he learned of mom’s death the following May, he reached out to me with heartfelt condolences.” —Anne Stephens, communications director, Our Lady of Assumption Church