Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
Couples in marriage preparation are encouraged to focus on the sacrament of marriage itself, rather than the festivities that mark the day, in order to emphasize the mutual love and sharing for one another.


Writer’s favorite stories showcased Catholics in ‘unexpected’ times

By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published January 7, 2021

ATLANTA—If I could sum up the year 2020 into one word, I would go with “unexpected.” Many of us were hopeful for 2020, making plans to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other milestones. I, like many others, had plans to travel this year. This was going to be “our year” of greatness, of reaching new heights.

And then the coronavirus pandemic hit, forcing us to cancel or postpone plans, rethink celebrations, who we are in this world and who we are as a country.

The Georgia Bulletin shared stories that showed successes and hardship, and the reality of what it is like to live through a pandemic. Schools, churches and ministries have been creative in providing the faith to so many at home. At the same time, the needs of those ministries serving the poor and marginalized have grown exponentially.

The evil of racism sparked protests around the world, including a Catholic response in Atlanta. The election season came, and families buried loved ones due to the pandemic or other causes.

For these many reasons, it was difficult to pick just one story as a favorite for this unexpected year. But there were a couple that stood out that I would like to share.

Dealing with grief during a pandemic comes with its own challenges, leaving people more isolated. I explored this in the story, “A sense of community can help those grieving in a pandemic.”

This was one of my favorites of the year because it spoke to an experience many of us are feeling in one way or another. While some of our grief is due to the loss of a loved one, many of us grieved the loss of something we were expecting, such as a trip or graduation ceremony. I believe all of us lost a sense of security this year, whether physically or emotionally.

In 2020, I experienced grief in different and unexpected ways. As a catechist for teens at my church, two of my students unexpectedly and tragically lost their father in February. I lost a dear friend due to the coronavirus. My godmother died of cancer, and as a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes in Atlanta, many well-loved and lifelong members have died in 2020.

Holding a family photo, Donald Jeanne stands inside Most Blessed Sacrament Church, the Atlanta parish where he is a member. His wife, Anita, died in 2019, leaving him to grieve and raise their two daughters, Isabella Marie, 12, and Sophia Marie, 10, during a pandemic. Photo By Michael Alexander

All of this was difficult to process, along with the many challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. But what helped me a great deal was my faith and community. Being able to pray and sing hymns helped with tough moments. Phone and Zoom calls with family and friends definitely made me feel closer to loved ones, even though we couldn’t gather in person.

Even though I spoke with Donald Jeanne and Kathy DiBlasi for a brief period of time for this story, it was healing for me to hear their experience and connect with them. It was important for me to not only create a safe space where they could share their stories, but to also care for them in the article. I wanted to share that while there is hope, grief is a hard process and it is OK to reach out for support.

This year has been difficult for all of us. My prayer is that we give each other patience and grace as we continue to navigate life during and after the pandemic.

Anyone who has been married, been in a wedding party, planned a wedding or attended a wedding knows there is a lot of planning and expectations that go into a wedding day. There are so many decisions to make about various things from the ceremony to the reception.

As businesses closed due to the pandemic, I wondered what couples were experiencing as they were planning their wedding. With a social media shout out, we were able to find three couples willing to share their story. I enjoyed meeting each couple interviewed for “Newly married couples find joy despite changed plans.”

First, I thought it was neat to find three couples that all chose to get married in spite of the pandemic. The Cowdricks are so sweet and fun. They were married right before the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta closed its doors in March. They went from a planned wedding for 200 people to a ceremony with just immediate family. They were so happy to be married.

I loved how honest the Dickersons were about their experience, such as the date being pushed back multiple times and the bridal shower being cancelled. But after the experience, they felt stronger as a couple. The Mizells’ story incorporated many sacraments. How beautiful it must’ve been to not only get married, but watch your daughter receive her first communion.

I’ve heard multiple times that the pandemic is here to teach us something. I’m sure the lessons are far and wide reaching. And it’s comforting to know that even through hardship and uncertainty, these couples chose one another with God’s help, which is what marriage is about.

I wish all of them and all newly married couples love and happiness in the coming years.