By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published November 26, 2020
JOHNS CREEK—The year is 1973. A winter snowstorm shut down businesses in Georgia, Jimmy Carter is the governor of the Peach State and Hank Aaron hits his 700th home run for the Atlanta Braves.
That same year, in a remote town north of Atlanta, Dr. Fred Jabaley, a cradle Catholic and dentist, bought farmland for his family on Old Alabama Road. Years later, the land and some surrounding it would become the home of St. Brigid Church and Holy Redeemer School in Johns Creek.
Jabaley met his wife, Patsy, a teacher, at a blind date on Halloween. Patsy became a Catholic, and the couple married in 1974. They welcomed two daughters, Jennifer and Susan.
Fred worked on the farm, tending to the cattle and a huge garden the family enjoyed. Patsy remembers him being a “frustrated farmer,” she said with a laugh. Fred “enjoyed being outside and working, working on the earth,” she said.
The Jabaley home was filled with memories, laughter and their Catholic faith throughout the years.
Later, Fred bought a nearby house for his dentistry practice, which started to grow as more people moved into the area. He provided dental care for the brothers at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. For a time, Fred would make the journey to Conyers and do simple procedures for the religious at their campus clinic. Later, the brothers would come to his office. Over the years, the brothers would send Christmas gifts to the Jabaley family.
Fred sold the land to the Archdiocese of Atlanta on Feb. 9, 1996. Father Joseph Corbett, now a monsignor and pastor of St. Jude the Apostle Church, moved into the house to be the administrator of the unnamed mission. The former Jabaley house was used for daily Mass, office space and as a rectory.
The mission operated out of the house and Centennial High School in Roswell. Later, the mission was named St. Brigid, in honor of the fifth century Irish saint. The first Sunday Mass was held at the high school on Nov. 1, 1998. About 500 people attended.
Holy Redeemer School, which sits across the parking lot of the Johns Creek parish, opened its doors for the fall semester in 1999.
On Sept. 24, 2000, Archbishop John F. Donoghue elevated the mission to a parish and appointed Father Corbett as the first pastor. The groundbreaking ceremony took place in the summer of 2001, and the new St. Brigid Church was dedicated on Nov. 2, 2002.
During this time of construction and transition, the Jabaley family moved and found faith homes at St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Benedict churches. Fred was on the building committee for St. Benedict Church. The family was involved in various ministries at both parishes over the years. Jennifer and Susan graduated from St. Pius X High School in Atlanta.
After St. Brigid Church opened, the Jabaley family returned to the land they once called home. Both Jennifer and Susan were married and baptized their children at the Johns Creek parish. Susan’s son, Patrick, is a student at Holy Redeemer School.
Fred died in 2015, the same year St. Brigid announced that they were accepting reservations for a columbarium and memorial garden, which would be finished in 2016.
When Patsy heard about the columbarium at St. Brigid, she was delighted. “This is where we should be, back where it started,” she said.
Fred’s cremated remains were placed in the garden, just outside of the adoration chapel at St. Brigid. His brother Charles, who died in 2018, rests in the adjacent niche. The columbarium garden is a peaceful place for families to spend time in prayer or reflection.
“This is something I thought we were blessed with,” said Patsy.