By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Editor | Published April 14, 2023
ATLANTA—Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., celebrated the annual Chrism Mass Tuesday, April 4, at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, encouraging priests to be close to one another and the people of God.
Concelebrating the afternoon Mass were auxiliaries Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, and Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III, Bishop John N. Tran and the priests of the archdiocese.
The archbishop consecrated the chrism and blessed the sacramental oils of the catechumens and the sick, to be used in parishes across the archdiocese in the coming year. He led priests in renewing the promises made at their ordinations.
In his homily, Archbishop Hartmayer reflected on the joys and trials of the priesthood, and the four pillars of the priestly life. Often a focus of Pope Francis, the four pillars for priests are closeness to God, the bishop, other priests and the people of God.
“As priests, we must cultivate intimacy with the Lord,” he told the clergy gathered at the cathedral. “Be men of a priestly heart so you will be close to God’s people. You are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.”
He concluded his homily with a prayer of blessing for priests.
“May Mary, the mother of priests, keep you ever close to her son, the great high priest,” prayed Archbishop Hartmayer.
Seventeen priests serving in the Archdiocese of Atlanta are celebrating jubilee anniversaries of their ordinations from 25 to 60 years. They were honored with a dinner following the Chrism Mass. The 2023 jubilarians are:
Father Joseph A. Mendes, MSFS, 60 Years
Father Joseph Mendes is a priest of the Missionary Society of St. Francis de Sales, Maharashtra-Goa Province, India. He was born in India to Christilina and Cosme Mendes. He was ordained to the priesthood on Sept. 21, 1963.
Father Mendes studied at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, earning a bachelor’s degree in physics and math in 1969.
He returned to India, serving as a principal, a provincial and in other leadership roles. In 1994, he was appointed parochial vicar of St. Patrick Church in Norcross. In 1997, he was appointed chaplain to the Visitation Monastery in Snellville. From 2001-2012, he was the confessor and conference instructor to the Missionaries of Charity at the Gift of Grace House in Atlanta, and a permanent diaconate instructor for the archdiocese.
Father Mendes loves reading, providing spiritual counseling and preaching. He finds confessions a fulfilling part of ministry.
He is currently a senior priest in residence at St. Marguerite d’Youville Church in Lawrenceville.
Father Giles Conwill, 50 Years
Father Giles Conwill was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of San Diego in 1973 after receiving a Master of Divinity degree from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. He later earned a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and history from Emory University in Atlanta.
Father Conwill was a professor of history at Morehouse College in Atlanta for 23 years, serving as chair of its history department for three years. He then served Xavier University in New Orleans as director of campus ministry, retiring in 2012.
A renowned speaker, he has presented lectures and workshops on Black spirituality across the United States. Father Conwill is a winner of the National Interdenominational Sermon-Writing Contest and was inducted into The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. International Board of Preachers.
Father Conwill considers his students his “surrogate spiritual sons.” Among them, he can point to lawyers, actors, police officers, professors, a U.S. senator and “some really good citizens who contribute to society’s welfare.”
Msgr. Richard J. Lopez, 50 years
Msgr. Richard James Lopez was born in March 1944 in New York, the son of Emilio and Johanna (Purcell) Lopez. He studied at schools in Florida, New York and Missouri. He was ordained a priest by Archbishop Thomas Donellan on April 28, 1973.
Msgr. Lopez served as a curate in three parishes before his assignment as a teacher at St. Pius X High School in Atlanta for 33 years. He was in residence at the Cathedral of Christ the King for seven years and is currently chaplain at the Purification Heritage Center in Sharon, the site of the first English-speaking Catholic settlement in north Georgia.
The monsignor is grateful for the love and support of the people of God for 50 years, the honor of celebrating daily Mass and especially for the constant joy and presence of his former students in his life.
Father Kevin Robert Baldwin, LC, 25 Years
Father Kevin Robert Baldwin of Belmar, New Jersey, is the son of Mary and Larry Baldwin. He attended seminary at Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. A priest of the Legionaries of Christ, he was ordained on Dec. 24, 1998.
Father Baldwin served at the Everest School and the Regnum Christi Movement of Curitiba, Brazil from 2000 to 2008 as chaplain and director. He was chaplain of the Everest Academy in Chicago, Illinois, from 2012 to 2015. He then was secretary to the Legionary Provincial of USA for three years.
His current assignment is chaplain for the Regnum Christi Movement in Atlanta and Florida, where he is also a spiritual director.
Father Baldwin’s interests are tennis, golf, soccer and reading history books. He enjoys “bringing people closer to Christ through the sacraments and by offering them spiritual direction.”
Msgr. Jaime Barona, 25 Years
Msgr. Jaime Barona was ordained to the priesthood on June 6, 1998. He was born in Colombia to Hernan and Celmira Barona and raised in Quebec, Canada. He attended seminary at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana.
A retired priest, his most recent service was as pastor of St. Michael Church in Gainesville. He also served as pastor at St. Matthew Church in Winder from 2000 to 2010 and as pastor of St. Bernadette Church in Cedartown for one year. His first assignment after ordination was as parochial vicar at St. Benedict Church in Duluth.
Msgr. Barona enjoys writing, traveling and teaching, as well as serving communities within the archdiocese.
He says the most rewarding part of ministry is preaching the Gospel and leading people to God, as well as counseling and helping Catholics “to grow in love of Christ and brother.”
Father José Guadalupe Matus Castillo, OFM Conv., 25 years
Father José Guadalupe Matus Castillo, OFM Conv., was raised in Union Hidalgo Oaxaca, Mexico. He is the son of German Matus and Florentina Castillo. He attended seminary at Seminario Diocesano Guadalupano de Cuautitlan, Estado de Mexico. He was ordained a priest on Oct. 10, 1998.
Father Castillo served for 10 years in Mexico, then arrived in San Antonio, Texas, in 2008 to assist the Conventual Franciscan Province. His parish assignments have included churches in Florida, Massachusetts, Illinois, New York and New Jersey.
He served the community of St. John Vianney Church in Lithia Springs for six years. In September 2022, he was assigned to serve as a parochial vicar at Holy Cross Church in Atlanta.
Father Castillo enjoys exercising at the gym and swimming.
Father Liam Coyne, 25 Years
A native of Kilrush, Ireland, Father Liam Coyne is the son of Richard and Marie Coyne. He attended seminary at Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) Anglo-Irish Province. Father Coyne was ordained a priest on June 13, 1998.
He served as a parochial vicar at All Saints Church, Dunwoody; Holy Family Church, Marietta; Good Shepherd Church, Cumming; and the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, before being named pastor of St. Gerard Majella Church in Fort Oglethorpe, where he served from 2005 to 2013.
He was assigned pastor of St. James the Apostle Church in McDonough in 2013.
Father Coyne enjoys reading, watching movies and spending time with his golden retriever.
In addition to celebrating the sacraments, Father Coyne finds joy and fulfillment in “accompanying people as they draw closer to God and witnessing their spiritual growth.”
Father Rafael A. Castaño Fernandez, 25 Years
Father Rafael Antonio Castaño Fernandez is the son of Jose A. Castaño and Margarita Fernandez. He attended St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1998.
Following ordination he began his ministry as a parochial vicar at Transfiguration Church, Marietta. He was then a parochial vicar at Holy Cross Church, Atlanta, before being named pastor at St. Bernadette Church in Cedartown in 2001. Father Castaño Fernandez served the Cedartown parish community until 2010. He is now pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Hartwell.
His interests are reading, walking and exercising.
Father Castaño Fernandez enjoys getting to know parishioners and realizing what all of us have in common.
“We are all in a search for God and looking for God, and that community binds us all together as humans,” he said.
Father Victor A. Galier, 25 Years
Father Victor A. Galier is a native of Moore, Oklahoma. He is the son of Rita and the late Victor Galier. He attended seminary at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He was ordained on June 6, 1998.
After ordination, Father Galier was a parochial vicar at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta. He was named pastor of St. Matthew Church, Tyrone, in 2001, serving there for nine years.
He has been the pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Atlanta since 2011. He also is the director of the Office of Senior Priests for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, assisting his brother priests with various needs as they age.
Father Galier finds “serving the people of God in times of great joy and difficulty in their lives,” a fulfilling aspect of ministry.
He enjoys golf, tennis, travel, technology and pop culture.
Father Vinod M. George, 25 Years
Father Vinod M. George, son of George Madathiparambil and Philomena Pottodathil, attended seminary at St. Thomas Apostolic in Kerlala, India. A priest of the SyroMalabar Catholic Church, he was ordained a priest on Dec. 28, 1998.
Father George served many churches in India and earned a Master of Philosophy in 2004 from Papal Seminary in Pune, India. In 2007, the Bishop of Mananthavady sent him to St. Thomas SyroMalabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago. He has served the diocese in a variety of leadership roles and is now pastor of St. Alphonsa SyroMalabar Catholic Church in Loganville. Father George is also mission director for St. John Paul II SyroMalabar Catholic Mission in Cumming.
His hobbies include reading, long-distance driving and technology.
For Father George, the most rewarding aspects of the priesthood are serving the youth and young adult ministry of his diocese and working in priest formation.
Father Dennis Juan, 25 Years
Father Dennis R. Juan is the son of Carmen and the late Frederick Juan. He attended seminary at the Pontifical Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia. He was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 12, 1998, by Archbishop John F. Donoghue.
In the Archdiocese of Atlanta, he began his ministry as a parochial vicar at Holy Family Church in Marietta in 1999. Father Juan served at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus prior to being named pastor of St. Clement Church, Calhoun. Father Juan ministered to the Douglasville community at St. Theresa Church. He then served as pastor at St. Mary Church in Toccoa. He has led the parishioners of Sacred Heart Church in Griffin as pastor since 2005.
Father Juan has worked to develop or strengthen Hispanic outreach at parishes while working toward unity in communities.
Father Stephen J. Lyness, 25 Years
Father Stephen J. Lyness, son of Patrick and Eilish Lyness, was raised in Lurgan, Northern Ireland. He attended St. John’s Seminary in Waterford. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 26, 1998.
In the Archdiocese of Atlanta, he began his ministry at St. Catherine of Siena Church. He has also served the parish communities of St. Lawrence Church, St. Thomas Aquinas Church, St. Peter’s in Warren Point (Northern Ireland) and the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta. Father Lyness served as parochial vicar at St. Benedict Church and then Mary Our Queen Church, while also assigned as chaplain for Georgia State University.
In 2014, he was named pastor of both Queen of Angels Church in Thomson and St. Joseph Church in Washington.
Father Lyness is now pastor of St. George Church in Newnan.
He enjoys riding his motorcycle, and says he finds all parts of his priestly ministry rewarding.
Father David Musso, SM, 25 Years
Father David Musso, SM, was born in Fresno, California to Vic and Mary Musso. He attended Marist Seminary and was ordained in June 1998.
Father Musso first entered seminary in 1961. After leaving seminary, he worked his way through law school as a professional clown. He was an assistant district attorney, but the pull to be a priest was always there.
He spent eight years in formation and was ordained a priest at the age of 50. His first assignment with the Society of Mary was as a parochial vicar at St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii. Father Musso arrived in Atlanta in 2000 and serves Marist School, Atlanta, and Notre Dame Academy, Duluth, as chaplain.
His hobbies include reading, traveling, watching movies and being with people.
“I love working with the kids and being a witness of the words and life of Jesus,” he said.
Father Kevin Peek, 25 Years
Father Kevin Peek, son of Joseph and Mary Peek, was raised in Decatur. He attended seminary at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He was ordained on June 13, 1998.
After ordination, he was assigned as parochial vicar at Holy Trinity Church in Peachtree City. Father Peek was then pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Decatur for two years. From 2004-2008, he was chaplain at Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell. Father Peek also served the Georgia Tech Catholic Center as chaplain.
Currently, he coordinates hospital and airport ministries and serves in the prison ministry and Georgia National Guard.
His hobbies are soccer, food, spending time with friends and family and traveling.
Father Peek said that “reconciling people to God and to his church; healing and restoring them to God and to themselves,” is most meaningful.
Father Pedro Poloche, 25 Years
A native of Espinal, Tolima, in Colombia, Father Pedro Poloche is the son of the late Gustavo and Emelinda Poloche. He attended seminary at Seminario Conciliar La Inmaculada and Seminario Nacional de Cristo Sacerdote, both in Colombia. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 13, 1998.
He has served in several capacities with the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Atlanta since 2008 and is now a judge. Father Poloche was pastor of St. Helena Church in Clayton for five years and Our Lady of LaSalette Church in Canton for two years. He is now pastor of St. Patrick Church, Norcross.
He is also the director of Ongoing Formation of Priests for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, which supports priests in their human, intellectual, pastoral and spiritual development.
Father Poloche’s hobbies are hiking and reading, and he enjoys preaching.
Father Richard Tibbetts, 25 Years
Father Richard Tibbetts hails from Portland, Maine. He is the son of Kenneth and Beatrice (Clark) Tibbetts.
He entered St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary after a career in education and was ordained on June 6, 1998, at age 55. Prior to hearing the call to the priesthood, he worked in special education, in public schools and as a therapist. He earned a master’s in social work from the University of Connecticut.
In the archdiocese, he served as pastor at Holy Cross Church, Atlanta, of St. Theresa Church, Douglasville, and St. Mary Church, Toccoa. He also was a parochial vicar at St. Joseph Church, Marietta.
Father Tibbetts serves on the Priests Council of the archdiocese as a delegate of the Office of Senior Priests. He celebrates Mass and offers reconciliation for teen retreats at Camps Covecrest and Hidden Lake.
“I love saying Mass, hearing confessions and counseling … doing what I was ordained to do,” he said.
Father Augustine Hoa Trung Tran, 25 Years
Father Augustine Hoa Trung Tran was born in Saigon, Vietnam. He is the son of Huong and Paul Pigulski. He attended seminary at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 12, 1998.
He began his ministry in the Archdiocese of Atlanta as a parochial vicar at St. Theresa Church, Douglasville. He also served at St. Thomas More Church and All Saints Church, before studying canon law at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Father Tran taught theology at Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell, from 2004 to 2020 and is currently a parochial vicar at St. Monica Church, Duluth.
He enjoys studying apologetics and philosophy and keeping up with technology. For Father Tran, the most rewarding parts of ministry are offering Mass, hearing confessions and helping others to grow in their relationship with God. “I especially love teaching others about the Catholic faith,” he said.