By GEORGIA BULLETIN STAFF | Published January 6, 2022
ATLANTA—With the COVID-19 pandemic and its variants as the backdrop, Catholics in Atlanta continued to live out their faith, serving others in 2021 in creative ways. Like most years, 2021 had its share of heartbreaking stories as well as joyful experiences.
Here is a look back at the events that shaped last year for the Catholic community:
On Jan. 6, thousands attacked the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. in an effort to overturn the presidential election. Two days later, Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., released a statement in response to the violence at the capitol building, asking the faithful to pray for a peaceful transition of power.
Father John-Paul Ezeonyido, pastor of Christ Our Hope Church in Lithonia, died on Christmas Day in 2020 after a long illness. He was 50. His funeral Mass was celebrated by Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III on Jan. 14.
Ahead of the liturgical season of Lent and due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Archbishop Hartmayer announced liturgical adjustments for the Blessing of Throats and the distribution of ashes for Ash Wednesday. Guidelines were also provided about the Rite of Election at parishes for catechumens.
On Feb. 6, seven deacons were ordained to serve in the archdiocese by Archbishop Hartmayer at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta. Six of them were ordained as permanent deacons and one a transitional deacon on the path to priesthood. The archbishop explained to the newly ordained, “You are called to proclaim the Gospel and help people hear the story as their own.”
Hal Plummer, superintendent of schools for the Atlanta Archdiocese, announced that Our Lady of Victory School in Tyrone and Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fayetteville would be consolidated into one PreK-12 Catholic school. The new school, to be called St. Mary’s Academy, will open in the fall of 2022.
The Quest Atlanta 1160 AM station rolled out a new Bible study program called, “Be Who God Created!” Hosted by Keri Allen and Linda Scharnhorst, episodes explored the Bible’s Book of Esther and its relevance for current readers.
Three of the six people that died in a fatal chemical leak at a poultry plant in Gainesville were members of St. John Paul II Mission. One was a member of Prince of Peace Church in Flowery Branch. Prayer services were held for the victims, their families and the community.
In a statement released March 3, Archbishop Hartmayer encouraged Catholics in the archdiocese to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Despite the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines using abortion-derived cell lines in either their processes of testing or production, the archbishop echoed the Vatican statement that it was “morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines.”
The “Pastoral Strategies for Racial Healing in Our Communities” program brought together 50 local priests and bishops to discuss how to heal the deep wounds of racism regardless of how uncomfortable the journey may be.
The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion was held Feb. 20 at four parishes in the Atlanta Archdiocese. More than 400 catechumens and nearly 800 candidates became Catholic at the Easter Vigil.
Priests from the archdiocese stepped up to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients during the pandemic. They provided peace to the dying and comfort to those separated from loved ones. This story was part of the newspaper’s “Year of COVID” stories in March, which looked at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic over the course of a year.
In a matter of minutes a powerful nighttime tornado in late March destroyed businesses and homes in western Coweta county, leaving many families without a place to live. Deacon Steve Swope, of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Newnan, encouraged other parish communities in the archdiocese to consider second collections or to adopt the community to meet specific and future needs.
Sixteen priests in the Atlanta Archdiocese celebrated milestone ordination anniversaries. They were honored at the Chrism Mass. Five of the priests celebrated 50 years or more. This included Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III, who celebrated 25 years in the priesthood.
After a Mass dispensation for more than a year, Archbishop Hartmayer announced the end of the dispensation for Catholics on Pentecost.
Eight people, six of Asian descent, died in a tragic shooting where a gunman targeted three spas and massage parlors in Atlanta. Catholics joined an interfaith prayer service at the Gold Spa, one of the crime scene locations.
Kat Doyle, director of Justice and Peace Ministries for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, represented the local church on a Vatican panel to increase sustainable efforts within the Catholic Church and the world.
For nearly 25 years, the pages of The Georgia Bulletin featured the photographs of Michael Alexander. Alexander retired from his work at the archdiocesan newspaper. From portraits of people to Masses and other events, Alexander’s photographs are records of Catholic life in Atlanta.
On May 6, Archbishop Hartmayer marked one year as shepherd of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. In a May 13 interview with The Georgia Bulletin, the archbishop reflected on his first year as Atlanta’s spiritual leader—its joys and challenges.
Volunteer Henry Lam drives the effort of Holy Vietnamese Martyrs parishioners to feed hundreds of homeless people in metro-Atlanta daily. Lam shared his faith journey with readers in an inspiring feature.
A new school, named for Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, of Atlanta, will open doors and possibilities for 225 vulnerable children living in Ghana, West Africa. The school is part of the Pope Francis School & Health Centre (PFSHC) program in the Volta Region of Ghana. Bishop Konzen was a longtime Catholic educator prior to his appointment as an auxiliary bishop.
On Saturday, May 29, three men reached milestones on their journeys to the priesthood. Archbishop Hartmayer ordained Benjamin “Ben” Thomsen, Juan Carlos Villota Viteri and Joseph “Joe” Wagner as transitional deacons for the archdiocese.
The archdiocese started a multi-year initiative to develop and deepen an appreciation of the Eucharist on The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, on June 6. Its focus is to help Catholics understand the Eucharist and how it has fed and inspired the faithful since Jesus’ Last Supper.
Two men were ordained to serve as priests in the archdiocese, with a call to share the “gospel of joy and the gospel of justice.” Rousing applause followed Father Paul Nacey and Father Robert “Robbie” Cotta as they exited the Cathedral of Christ the King, after being ordained June 12.
Archbishop Hartmayer announced the return of the archdiocese’s Eucharistic Congress. The 25th Congress is set for June 17-18, 2022. The 2020 and 2021 events were canceled due to the pandemic.
The Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) at the University of Notre Dame announced a partnership in the Atlanta community to help organizations working with the poor measure impact by using scientific evaluation methods.
Archbishop Hartmayer blessed a statue of Mary Thursday, July 22. Our Lady, donated by an Atlanta family, stands outside the main entryway of the Chancery. The white Italian marble statue of Mary depicts her in the traditional stance as Our Lady of Grace with her exposed Immaculate Heart.
Swimmer Gunnar Bentz and hammer thrower Daniel Haugh, 2014 graduates of St. Pius X High School, competed in the Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan. Bentz placed seventh overall in the 200-meter butterfly event, and Haugh was 11th in the mens’ final for the hammer throw.
When Lieu Nguyen waits at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to greet flight-weary families who face uncertain futures, he knows in his heart those feelings. Nguyen marked 31 years of working in refugee resettlement for Catholic Charities Atlanta, drawing upon his own experience as a refugee from Vietnam.
Catholic school communities started a second school year shadowed by the coronavirus. There was an uptick of infections in Georgia where vaccination rates lagged. Superintendent Hal Plummer announced that students and staff would not be required to wear face coverings at all times.
Catholic Charities Atlanta’s refugee resettlement services prepared for the arrival of Afghan refugees after the Taliban takeover of the country. “Catholic Charities Atlanta (CCA) stands ready to welcome those families being resettled to the U.S. who sacrificed so much to aid American efforts over the past 20 years,” said CCA in a statement.
Sister Hope is a conversational chatbot launched by Catholic Charities Atlanta as a 24-hour mental health digital program. Users activate the free chat by texting “Hi” to Sister Hope at 202-949-7249 and entering the start code “CCA.” Messaging is available in English and Spanish.
Atlanta’s Little Five Points, one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods, is also where you can find members of the Legion of Mary handing out 100 rosary beads as part of their faith-filled efforts to share its message. The Legion of Mary, a lay apostolic association of Catholics, celebrated 100 years of ministry around the world Sept. 7.
Coach Alan Chadwick of Marist School started the football season with this milestone win. The 400th victory solidifies his reputation in the history books of high school football in Georgia and the country. The team ended the season at 10-2.
In his quarterly column, “Peace and All Good,” Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., shared his perspective on the morality of the vaccines to fight COVID-19. “Receiving the vaccine, wearing a mask when necessary and self-isolating can be pro-life actions or acts of charity that serve the common good.”
This was one of several stories to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The commemoration brought together the Catholic community, from schools to churches, to reflect and take stock of the tragic event.
The Echo Program places students earning a master’s degree in theology at the University of Notre Dame in the heart of living the faith for two years. 2021 was the first year the Archdiocese of Atlanta partnered with the program, putting the young adults in a parish or school.
With October set aside for believers as the month of the Holy Rosary, a young artist poured her faith and devotion to St. Mary into her work. An oversized rosary was the centerpiece of Elisa Jiménez’s extended project, dedicated to the Blessed Mother.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta began the next Synod of Bishops, which calls for believers to listen and learn from each other to revitalize the church.
The Purification Heritage Center welcomed guests as its expansion continued. This was one of two stories focused on the cradle of Catholicism in Georgia. The center is located some 100 miles east of Atlanta.
Christ the Redeemer Church was founded in 1982, beginning as a mission of St. Luke Church in Dahlonega when Catholics were few in Dawson County. There were 10 founding families. For nearly 39 years, the community worshiped in borrowed, rented or temporary facilities including a public library and the Dawsonville United Methodist Church. The archbishop blessed its new building in early November.
Sister Susan Arcaro celebrated nearly three decades in the Archdiocese of Atlanta helping others get to the core of faith by seeing how God stirs their souls. The Cenacle sister serves in the retreat ministry.
The newly opened gallery teaches about “these sons and daughters of the Black community who are a gift to U.S. Catholicism and the universal church,” said Father Urey Mark, the director of the center. The Lyke House serves Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University and Georgia State University.
Several churches in the Archdiocese of Atlanta commissioned original art depicting the Georgia Martyrs—five Franciscans who died on Georgia’s coast in the late 16th century.
New art and stained glass windows, blessed in a pre-Christmas service by Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, welcome visitors, volunteers and staff who visit the chapel at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.
Thomas Edward Zaworski, one of the first two permanent deacons ordained for the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 1977, died Dec. 9. He was 86 years old and had served in a variety of ministries and several parishes.