Published June 13, 2019
ATLANTA—Building on its mission of fostering an intellectually vibrant community, the Aquinas Center is expanding community partnerships and collaborations within the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
In May, the Aquinas Center Board of Directors selected Adrian Dominican Sister Mary Priniski as the executive director of the Aquinas Center. Sister Mary’s leadership and vision for the Aquinas Center offer a new direction that engages parishioners, community members and church leadership to broaden the center’s tradition of being a leader in Catholic intellectual thought.
The Aquinas Center was formed in 1987 to bring Catholic scholarly resources to Emory University, the archdiocese and the broader community. In an archdiocese of 1.2 million Catholics and 103 parishes and missions, the Aquinas Center is a thriving Catholic intellectual center serving the region. With its Dominican tradition, dynamic programs that explore Catholic social teaching and social justice issues have been the hallmark of the center.
Sister Mary Priniski, OP, Ph.D. is a graduate of the University of Detroit; earned a master’s in health care mission from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis and her doctorate in missiology from the Union Institute and University based in Cincinnati. She has served in various social justice ministries including coordinator of Connective Ministries, director of the Commission on Justice of the Glenmary Home Missioners and executive secretary of the Labor Guild of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Sister Mary is project coordinator for Gathering for Mission, a project of the Catholic Committee of the South, engaging church leadership in dialogue on the voice and vision of Pope Francis. Previously, she served as MidAtlantic chapter prioress for her congregation, the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She has spent most of her ministerial life engaging in social justice issues, particularly the rights of workers.
An Aquinas Center Board Member since 2009, Sister Mary became interim executive director in July 2018. She has furthered programming to include an annual Catherine of Siena Lecture series, which features the voice of women theologians and has strengthened community relationships. However, it was her response to the events brought to light by the Pennsylvania grand jury report that created an unexpected forum for interparish community collaboration.
In the fall of 2018, many concerned parishioners reached out to the Aquinas Center to understand the sex abuse crisis and connect with other parishes. What started with parishioners from three parishes, has grown into a network of nineteen parishes from six counties across metro Atlanta. This Catholic Lay Interparish Partnership (CLIP) group, which meets monthly at the Aquinas Center, was formed with the mission of building an interparish community that will engage with the archdiocese to advocate for the inclusion of the laity in church governance.
The CLIP committee decided that an educational piece was needed to determine what positive changes could be enacted by the laity and how the laity could partner effectively with the archdiocese to create transparency, accountability and co-responsibility for the future of the church. Drawing upon her experience in community organizing, Sister Mary collaborated with adult faith formation leaders to develop ongoing educational tools to be used by parishes in conjunction with events. This series will address the many components that led to the crisis and will help foster a positive lay leadership response in partnership with the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
This educational series—entitled “What’s Next?”—will launch Sept. 10, and will explore a variety of topics that include ecclesiology, church finances and canon law. Community events will also be held in Spanish.
Sister Mary also became the vicar for religious for the Archdiocese of Atlanta on May 26, following the retirement of Sister Margaret McAnoy, IHM, from the position.
Bishop Joel M. Konzen made the announcement of the appointment of Sister Mary as vicar for religious, who is entrusted with coordinating personnel activities for members of religious congregations, both men and women, who are ministering in the archdiocese.
“Presently, there are 34 institutes of consecrated life represented in the archdiocese,” said Bishop Konzen. “Sister Mary will have an office at the Chancery and will be in contact with the religious members of the archdiocese once she begins her work.”