Published June 13, 2019
ATLANTA—Surrounded by clergy, religious and family, Mark A. White, 48, was ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, June 1 at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta.
“Today marks the culmination of a journey that began many years ago,” said Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III. “We are grateful for your perseverance in discerning and embracing your vocation.”
Bishop Shlesinger celebrated the ordination Mass. Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, diocesan administrator for the Atlanta Archdiocese was also present, along with many archdiocesan priests to welcome Father White into his new ministry.
Father Tri John-Bosco Nguyen, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, presented the candidate to Bishop Shlesinger for ordination to the priesthood. The presentation was met with a round of applause from the congregation.
During his homily, Bishop Shlesinger explained that the first duty of a priest is to pray. “Pray constantly for the grace to understand what you are doing … so you will be able to faithfully live the mystery that you celebrate at the altar and model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross,” said the bishop.
He said his hope for Father White is that he “will be a man of deep prayer as a priest.”
Father Tim Hepburn, the former director of vocations who helped the candidate prepare for the priesthood, assisted him with his new vestments. Father Hepburn was helpful to the new priest during his discernment when he was first asking questions about the vocation.
It was “beautiful to walk with him through the whole journey,” said Father Hepburn.
As he begins his life in the priesthood, Father White is most excited to help people “encounter Christ in a life-changing way,” he said.
Studies and support lead to conversion
Originally from Atlanta, both Father White and his older sister, Amanda Hailey, grew up as Protestants. Initially, Father White was not interested in religion. After a turning point in his 30s, he saw value in the Christian faith and attended an evangelical Christian seminary part-time to learn more.
“Once I started learning about my faith and I enjoyed it, it took off,” he said.
Before either of them became Catholic, Hailey saw traits in her brother that would help him in his ministry as a priest. While both of them worked in their family printing business, Hailey witnessed how kind and caring her brother was to customers and helpful in dealing with problems.
“He was so loving to all of our people,” she expressed.
Around a year into White’s seminary studies, Hailey became Catholic. After entering the faith, she continued to notice characteristics of her brother that reminded her of priests she met.
With her brother now becoming a priest, Hailey knows that “God did it his way,” she said.
Through sibling conversations, personal reflections and his studies, Father White explained “there was something full, deep and inexplicably unique” about Catholicism.
In August 2012, White entered the Catholic faith at Mary Our Queen Church in Peachtree Corners. With encouragement from a woman he dated briefly, he met with Father Hepburn about becoming a priest two months after entering the faith.
While preparing for priesthood, White became more active in parish life at Mary Our Queen Church, which included leading talks about the faith, first Communion preparation and RCIA. He describes a subsequent pastoral year at St. Pius X Church in Conyers as “revolutionary,” where he was involved in prison ministry, taught classes, visited nursing homes and held faith talks for all age groups. A pastoral year is an internship of sorts to help prepare men for the priesthood.
He studied at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and graduated a week before his ordination to the priesthood.
“I loved the academics,” said White, “I liked learning about the faith.”
Father White believes the “Blessed Mother was instrumental in bringing me into the church.”
Years before he became Catholic, the priest prayed that women would help him in his spiritual journey. With the support of his mother, sister and other women along the way, Father White felt a sense of the Blessed Mother guiding him, he said.
Hopes for ministry
Bishop Shlesinger encouraged Father White to “ask for the grace to always be faithful—to always know the love of God, to know his power at work.”
Hailey said her brother will make a great priest because of how compassionate and loving he is.
“He is uniquely qualified to reach people who have gone through difficult times,” she explained.
Among his many priestly responsibilities, Father White looks forward to being with people experiencing all kinds of poverty (physical, emotional or psychological) and the sacraments. He also looks forward to showing people that their suffering is something that God can work through for good.
“I don’t want to ever take a sacramental experience or opportunity for granted,” said Father White.
Father Hepburn looks forward to the new priest’s homilies.
“I’m very excited to see him begin to preach,” said Father Hepburn, who believes Father White is “a true homilist.”
Father White celebrated his first Mass at Mary Our Queen Church in Peachtree Corners on June 2. His first assignment as a parochial vicar is at the Cathedral of Christ the King, the same parish his sister attends.
“I pray that he will be able to bring the joy of Christ to people,” said Hailey, “and experience joy while he’s doing it.”