By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 14, 2020 | En Español
ATLANTA—In the silence of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., was installed May 6 as leader of the 1.2 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, telling believers they must care for each other without limits.
Speaking for the first time as the seventh archbishop of Atlanta, he said: “This cathedral is empty. And yet it is filled with the presence of the guiding force of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised his disciples he would send them to give them the gifts they needed to continue to guide his flock. And so, the tradition continues.”
The Mass of Canonical Installation looked unlike any other in the 64-year history of the church in Atlanta. It overturned what’s typically a ceremony of ancient prayers, attended by throngs of people spilling out of the pews, with civic and interfaith leaders greeting the new spiritual leader. Amid the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 1,300 people and infected some 30,500 in Georgia, the group in the cathedral was limited to a dozen people, keeping apart from each other, replacing handshakes and hugs with bows, with one deacon wearing a mask.
“It was lovely, but just so dramatically different,” said Deacon Dennis Dorner, chancellor of the archdiocese. It was his sixth ceremony organizing an installation or ordination of a bishop at the cathedral.
“I thought it would be deflating without the congregation, but it wasn’t,” he said.
The hour and a half ceremony in the Gothic mother church of the archdiocese began with the archbishop outside its wooden doors, knocking three times to gain admittance.
Absent were the hundreds of priests and bishops who traditionally lead a new archbishop into the church. Instead, Archbishop Hartmayer followed three deacons, priests, four bishops and a laywoman down the long center aisle.
Concelebrating bishops were Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM; Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III, Atlanta’s auxiliary bishops; Bishop J. Kevin Boland, bishop emeritus of Savannah; and Bishop Richard Spencer of the Archdiocese for the Military, based in Atlanta.
Members of the cathedral’s flower guild beautifully adorned the altar space with flower arrangements of hydrangeas, roses, delphinium, stock, limonium and a vast assortment of greenery from their own backyards.
Messages from afar
Participating by video were the pope’s ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre and Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, formerly of Atlanta, and now Archbishop of Washington.
“I’ve prayed that Pope Francis would send you a loving and generous servant minister to work with you in building up the body of Christ, that is the Archdiocese of Atlanta,” said Archbishop Gregory in his message. “And my prayers have been answered.”
Standing at an altar in Washington, D.C., Archbishop Pierre told the faithful of Atlanta Pope Francis remains close to them.
“He has given you a shepherd who will watch over the flock and nourish you with the word and sacrament, in fact, and not merely virtually,” he said.
Despite the lack of grand celebration, the pope’s ambassador urged Archbishop Hartmayer “to start working to build up the church and increase the kingdom here in Atlanta.”
The pandemic makes these times unique, with suspended Masses, but the faith is lived communally when Catholics come together, he said.
“The Holy Father is asking you to be close to the people of Atlanta and to lead them out of the tunnel into the marvelous light of the risen Lord,” he said.
Engaging the faithful
Later, standing at the pulpit, the 68-year-old archbishop spoke about the many “local signs of hope in an age where some seek to challenge our precious Catholic faith as obsolete or out of touch.”
In trying to accept a new normal way of life due to the coronavirus, “we have become more aware of the many manifestations of the Holy Spirit, brought into clearer focus during these days, when we must be apart from them and one another,” he said.
Archbishop Hartmayer expressed hope that with God’s grace, Catholics will make the most of the unique times and the opportunities presented.
“May our heavenly father use me, undeserving as I am, to help engage every person of faith to go and make disciples, to care for his beloved least among us and to rebuild his holy church,” he prayed.
The new archbishop grew up outside Buffalo, New York, with a police officer father and mother at home. Hartmayer was ordained in 1979 as a Franciscan priest in Albany, New York, serving in different education ministries. He moved to Atlanta in 1995 when he was appointed to lead St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro, and later St. John Vianney Church, Lithia Springs. He was named bishop of Savannah in 2011.
Msgr. Frank McNamee, the rector of the cathedral, opened the door to welcome the archbishop at the installation. They worked in neighboring parishes when they both arrived in the archdiocese the same year. Msgr. McNamee served at Holy Trinity Church in Peachtree City and the archbishop was in Jonesboro.
He recalled the archbishop was “very gracious, very welcoming, and showed great hospitality.” The monsignor said he expected the archbishop to take the Catholic community “to a new level.”
Father Daniel Ketter, archdiocesan judicial vicar and one of the few priests in the cathedral, said the archbishop’s words reminded the Catholic community to recall “the stark experience of an empty church, which could happen if we fail to do our job.”
Father Ketter said being away from the Eucharist and Mass should remind people of their great gifts, spurring priests and laity to live the faith with enthusiasm.
The installation was livestreamed and broadcast on EWTN and the Catholic Television Network.
There were 13,000 views of the ceremony as the faithful watched the event online, among them people who have known Archbishop Hartmayer the longest.
“We hope the day comes sooner than later when we can share the day with Greg,” said his older brother C. Douglas Hartmayer, speaking from Clarence Center, New York.
Classmates from his Catholic high school in upstate New York gathered on Facebook to watch the ceremony and share memories.
Carol Golyski, 68, a retired director at the University of Buffalo, said there is a great pride in seeing a classmate from Cardinal O’Hara High School as a church leader.
“He is very grounded, very humble,” said Golyski, adding how the archbishop encourages his classmates to still call him by his first name.
“His demeanor is to try and bring people into the church,” said Steve Golyski, 69, who retired from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Indeed, Archbishop Hartmayer outlined an inclusive vision for the church, as he said, “I stand here before you today, both as sheep and shepherd.”
Learn about the symbols of Archbishop Hartmayer’s coat of arms.