By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published December 24, 2020
SANDY SPRINGS—While visiting the grave of beloved priest Father Juan de la Cruz at Arlington Memorial Park, Mary Lunsford Kaido, a member of Holy Family Church in Marietta, was inspired to create a prayer service for deceased clergy of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
On Saturday, Dec. 5, nearly 20 people gathered to pray for more than 50 priests and bishops at the Sandy Springs cemetery. The prayer service was sponsored by the Holy Family parish, its pro-life team and the Our Lady’s Family Prayer Group.
The priests do not all have local families to visit their graves.
“The parishioners are their family,” said Lunsford Kaido.
Father de la Cruz served as parochial vicar for Holy Family Church for 15 years. Genny Hoene, a lay Carmelite and member of the Our Lady’s prayer group at Holy Family Church, grew close to the priest while visiting the sick of the parish on the first Fridays of the month.
“He had a very deep spirituality and love for blessing others,” said Hoene. “He took his vocation very seriously. He was just one of those priests that was warm and loving.”
After the priest’s death in 2018, members of Holy Family visited his gravesite at the Arlington cemetery on the anniversary of his birthday in September and his death in January.
We would pray the rosary, bring flowers and reminisce about what a great priest he was, said Lunsford Kaido.
After a visit to the cemetery in November, she felt the Holy Spirit call her to provide flowers for all the deceased clergy. She brought in the Our Lady’s prayer group and the pro-life team, both ministries she has been involved in for many years.
Earlier this year, the pro-life team members talked about doing something on the other spectrum of pro-life, said Lunsford Kaido.
“A lot of us pay attention to the unborn, which is very, very important,” said Lunsford Kaido. “But there’s a spectrum from the womb to the tomb.”
After a conversation with Peter Badolato, leader of the Holy Family pro-life team, donations were collected for poinsettias at the cemetery to place on the graves of the clergy. Any additional donations received went to the pro-life ministry.
“Mary just charges right ahead, and we get some very, very great things done,” said Badolato. “What really counts is that we remain faithful.”
The prayer service spread through word of mouth. Once people found out about it, many were assigned a priest for their prayer intentions. Parishioners of 11 Atlanta parishes prayed for the deceased priests. The list included St. Francis de Sales Church in Mableton and the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta.
While it was work to keep up with the names of priests given to people, it was fun, said Lunsford Kaido.
“It’s all about networking,” said Hoene. “The Blessed Mother said she would always put people together to network, to get her work done.”
Logistics were coordinated within a few weeks. After the poinsettias were placed upon the graves, the the faithful prayed the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, along with “A Prayer for All Priests.”
Lunsford Kaido credits the Holy Spirit for the success of the project.
“We’re making the statement that we’re supporting and praying for our priests,” she said. “We love them.”
Arlington Memorial Park is located at 201 Mount Vernon Highway, Sandy Springs.