By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Editor | Published October 9, 2020
ROSWELL—During an Oct. 7 Mass focused on unity, Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., received his sacred pallium blessed by Pope Francis.
The pallium—bands of wool worn around an archbishop’s shoulders to signify unity with the pope and responsibility to care for the flock—was blessed on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29, in Rome.
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Archbishop Hartmayer was unable to travel to Rome for the papal blessing. The apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, imposed the pallium on the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary at St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell. While Pope Francis continues to bless palliums and give them to archbishops as his predecessors did, the pope also decided several years ago that the formal imposition of the bands would be done by nuncios in the archbishops’ archdioceses.
Nearly 50 priests and some 80 invited guests attended the midday Mass, which was livestreamed. Bishops of the Province of Atlanta also attended. Attendees wore masks and practiced social distancing guidelines.
Before placing the pallium on the shoulders of Atlanta’s new archbishop, the nuncio remarked that Archbishop Hartmayer is to help his brother bishops be unified.
“Especially in a society, which is divided, the church should be the sign of unity, but a unity which comes not just as a fruit of results of our own efforts, but because we believe in God,” said Archbishop Pierre.
Challenging the world is a mission or vocation that Christians are called to, said the nuncio. He added that the church is not “another society,” rather “it is a sign of God’s presence where we live.”
“Jesus has called us to become his disciples,” said Archbishop Pierre. “Jesus has called us to show to the world that love is more powerful than anything else.”
The archbishop expressed that symbols, such as the pallium, are always expressing something that comes from heaven.
“We are joyful because we have a living sign of something which is above us,” he said.
Later in his homily, the nuncio reflected on Mary, mother of the Redeemer.
“Free from sin, her heart was free to say ‘yes’ to God,” he explained.
Addressing Archbishop Hartmayer he said, “Your heart must continue to be free to say ‘yes’ to God as a shepherd configured to Mary’s son.”
Archbishop Hartmayer grew up outside Buffalo, New York. He 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.
Pope Francis appointed then-Bishop Hartmayer to be Atlanta’s seventh archbishop in March. He was installed in a quiet ceremony, amid the pandemic, in May at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta.
Archbishop Hartmayer thanked his family, priests, religious and brother bishops attending the pallium Mass. He expressed gratitude to Pope Francis for giving him the opportunity to serve the church in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
“I pray I will be able to meet his expectations. I know that he is praying for me,” said the archbishop.
He commented on the shape of the pallium, reminiscent of a sheep being carried on his shoulders “never to be separated” from it.
“And that is exactly my mission, I believe … to bring unity where there is disunity and to bring together a diverse community of baptized people and to see one another as brothers and sisters,” said Archbishop Hartmayer. “The pallium will always remind me of this responsibility.”
Dr. Henry and Ihuoma Ohaya, parishioners of St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro, attended the pallium Mass.
Archbishop Hartmayer, who they still call “Father Greg,” was their longtime pastor and baptized one of their children.
“He’s real, he’s true. He listens and you feel heard,” said Ihuoma.
She always wondered what made him so approachable but after reading his biography in the Mass program, Ihuoma suspects his experience as an educator influenced him greatly.
“The opportunity to work with kids helped him,” she said.
Ihuoma said their former pastor helped the couple to deepen their faith to be “truly Catholics in works.”
Henry Ohaya is in the diaconate formation program and says the archbishop’s model of service was his inspiration.
“He moved us,” recalled Henry about the archbishop’s time in Jonesboro. “That really changed my life completely.”
As a deacon for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, he hopes to work in marriage and family ministries and pastoral care.
The celebration was a chance for relatives and friends, unable to attend his installation, to share in the joy.
“It has been truly a celebration of God’s goodness,” said Archbishop Hartmayer about the Mass. He said he is thankful to the archdiocese for “warmly welcoming” him back.
“Please pray for me,” he asked of the faithful. “And may God bless you all.”