By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published January 9, 2020
ATLANTA—2019 was a year of great change for Atlanta’s Catholic community as longtime Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory was appointed Archbishop of Washington by Pope Francis.
Archbishop Gregory, who had served Atlanta for 14 years, held a final press conference in April.
“I love you more than I can possibly express,” said Archbishop Gregory to the community. “You’ve made me feel a part of this family. And that’s the gift I will take with me to Washington.”
While the departure of the archbishop was the biggest news story of the year, The Georgia Bulletin takes a look back at the other top stories of 2019:
JANUARY TO MARCH
Birthright of Atlanta celebrates 50 years
Terry Weaver opened the first Birthright office in the United States in Atlanta in 1969. The Atlanta chapter, providing emergency assistance to pregnant women, first operated out of the St. Vincent de Paul Society building and eventually received a donated house from which it operates in Chamblee. There are now 236 chapters across the United States and Canada providing pro-life services.
World Youth Day 2019
Several youth groups and chaperones from the Archdiocese of Atlanta traveled to Panama City, Panama for the 2019 World Youth Day Jan. 22-27. Pilgrims from across the globe, ages 15-35, attend WYD for an encounter with the pope.
McCarrick removed from priesthood
Pope Francis confirmed the removal from the priesthood of Theodore E. McCarrick, the 88-year-old former cardinal and archbishop of Washington. The Vatican announced the decision Feb. 16, saying he was found guilty of “solicitation in the sacrament of confession and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”
Mary Our Queen dedicates new church
On St. Patrick’s Day, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated a dedication Mass for Mary Our Queen Church, Peachtree Corners. The church is a marriage of old and new as it is a replica of the closed St. Gerard Church in Buffalo, New York, incorporating sacred items from the closed parish as well as new touches.
Georgia passes fetal heartbeat bill
Georgia added itself to the list of states that aim to protect unborn life once a fetal heartbeat is detected. On March 29, the Georgia House of Representatives passed H.B. 481, entitled the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act.”
Honorable Mention: Pope names Bishop David P. Talley, former Atlanta auxiliary bishop, to lead the Memphis diocese.
APRIL TO JUNE
Archbishop Gregory tapped for new post
Pope Francis named Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta as the seventh Archbishop of Washington on April 4. He was installed May 21, succeeding Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who served as Washington’s archbishop from June 2006 to October 2018. Atlanta Catholics attended a farewell Mass April 28 at Marist School for their spiritual leader of 14 years.
Fire devastates Notre Dame Cathedral
A major blaze engulfed the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris April 15. At one point, emergency responders entered the cathedral in an attempt to preserve priceless art and statues from destruction. The blaze elicited emotional responses from throughout France as Christians began the observance of Holy Week.
Notre Dame Academy’s first graduating class
Twenty seniors graduated at the inaugural commencement ceremony at the independent Catholic school, Notre Dame Academy in Duluth, on May 31.
Diocesan administrator selected
Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, was elected by the College of Consultors May 24 to oversee the Atlanta Archdiocese as the diocesan administrator. An administrator was required to lead the archdiocese when the office of archbishop became vacant. “I ask for your prayers and support as I carry out these responsibilities on behalf of the people of God in this local church,” said Bishop Konzen. Appointed an auxiliary bishop while serving at Marist School, he was ordained in 2018.
Honorable Mentions: The Cristo Rey Board of Trustees selects a new president; Father Richard Morrow, the longest serving archdiocesan priest, is laid to rest; and Sister Mary Prema Pierick, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, visited the Atlanta members of the congregation.
JULY TO SEPTEMBER
Administration announces ‘third country’ rule
The Trump administration announced the U.S. departments of Justice and Homeland Security would adopt an interim “third country rule” requiring immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to first apply for refugee status in another country. News that the rule was taking effect July 16 brought condemnation by Catholic and other immigrant advocates, including the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.
Catholics respond to consecutive mass shootings
Pope Francis joined U.S. church leaders expressing sorrow after back-to-back mass shootings in the United States left at least 29 dead and dozens injured in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio on Aug. 3 and 4.
Reencuentro Familiar reunites elderly Mexicans with families
Our Lady of the Americas Mission took action to reunite Mexican immigrants in Georgia with 44 of their aged parents from Hidalgo, Mexico after decades of family separation. The mission partnered with the government of Hidalgo, Mexico, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, the Mexican Consulate General in Atlanta and the Atlanta-Hidalgo club. The mission facilitated visa paperwork, transportation and plane ticket purchases for the Mexican parents for their visit Aug. 7-27.
Honorable Mentions: The Knights of Peter Claver, the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW) and ACCCRUS, the African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the U.S., held national conventions in the Archdiocese of Atlanta over the summer. Three archdiocesan schools were named repeat winners of prestigious National Blue Ribbon awards.
OCTOBER TO DECEMBER
Atlanta priests share testimony of border trip
In the Oct. 3 issue of The Georgia Bulletin, Atlanta priests shared news of their trip to the U.S. border with Mexico. To learn about the plight of immigrants, priests from various dioceses joined Catholic Extension for an immersion program for pastors to the Diocese of Brownsville in Texas and a migrant shelter in Mexico. After a personal invitation from Catholic Extension, Father Mark Horak, SJ, pastor of St. Thomas More Church in Decatur, invited two other Atlanta priests to join him for the experience.
U.S. Bishops gather for fall meeting
On the agenda for the U.S. bishops’ Nov. 11-13 meeting in Baltimore were elections and discussions of key challenges in the church and the nation. The bishops elected Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles to a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is the first Latino to be elected to this role. They also received an update on a third-party reporting system to field sexual misconduct allegations against bishops. An official of the USCCB told the bishops the system could be in place by the end of February 2020.
A new church for Holy Vietnamese Martyrs
On Nov. 28, an estimated 4,000 people witnessed the dedication of Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church, a towering building with roofs of sweeping overhanging eaves. The new church in Norcross seats about 1,500. Bishop Joel M. Konzen celebrated the dedication Mass.
Pope celebrates 50 years as a priest
Pope Francis marked 50 years as a priest on Dec. 13, just days before his 83rd birthday.
Honorable Mentions: The independent Catholic Lay Interparish Partnership (CLIP) advocated for greater collaboration with church leadership, to draw together clergy and laypeople; and Blessed Trinity High School of Roswell won its third consecutive state football championship.