By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 7, 2023
MARIETTA—The community at Holy Family Church celebrated its Golden Anniversary in early October, bringing together young and old, long timers and new members for a weekend of festivities.
Phil Mooney and his family have worshipped here for 46 years. He moved from Philadelphia to work at The Coca-Cola Company in the early 1970s. His two children were baptized in the then new sanctuary, with its floor-to-ceiling clear windows framing creation.
“Most of the people who are parishioners came from other places. We were all, at one time, strangers coming into this parish. And I think that most of us have found a real sense of community in the church,” said Mooney, one of the leaders of the anniversary celebrations.
The capstone event of the weekend was a Mass bringing together the Spanish and English-speaking worshippers, celebrated with Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, along with the many priests who have served at the church through the years.
Holy Family parish began with Mass hosted at St. Catherine Episcopal Church. Later, as the congregation grew it moved from a local middle school then to a high school. Religious education classes were held at a Cobb Country middle school.
At the time, St. Joseph Church, in Marietta, was the closest parish. That church, along with St. Thomas the Apostle in Smyrna and St. Jude in Sandy Springs, gave financial support so Holy Family could get started, according to parish history.
Mass was first celebrated in its own church on Labor Day Weekend in 1976. At its start, its membership rolls had about 866 families and approximately 3,700 parishioners.
Today, on a weekend, five Masses are offered in English and one in Spanish. The parish counts some 1,100 families, with 49 baptisms a year. More than 1,000 people a year have been served by the parish St. Vincent de Paul ministry. Its religious education program has about 200 youngsters. It also hosts a preschool on its campus.
Pastor Father Miguel Grave de Peralta has been the spiritual leader since 2016.
Two parishes have spun off from Holy Family: St. Ann Church and Transfiguration Church, both in Marietta.
For the past months, the organizing committee spotlighted the parish history to help people understand what has made Holy Family unique. The 10-foot-high cross facing Lower Roswell Road was designed and constructed by parishioner Gary Garner in 1977. It shows a resurrection cross with flower petal shapes suggesting the spring that follows winter. The statue of the Holy Family was commissioned by parishioners after the beloved founding pastor Father John Mulroy passed away. It was designed by a prominent Georgia sculptor William Thompson.
The commemoration emphasized the past as a springboard, with “Celebrating 50 Years, Preparing for the Future.”
On the sun-kissed weekend of Oct. 7-8, the parish welcomed back past spiritual leaders and pastors at special Masses. The growing community continued to mix and mingle with social gatherings in the parish center. In the anniversary handbook, Father Peralta wrote, “Through our many ministries, and our service-oriented outreach programs, we put into action the truth stated so eloquently by St. John the Apostle: “If God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1 Jn 4:11).”
Holy Family Timeline
1970 – Land purchased by the archdiocese for a future new parish in East Cobb County
1973 – Holy Family parish established on June 1 by Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan
1976 – Church building dedicated on Nov. 21
1979 – First parish center constructed
1982 – Death of founding pastor, Father John Mulroy
1985 – Carrie Elfner, the parish’s original secretary and bookkeeper, retired after 11 years
1986 – Weekly Spanish Mass began at Holy Family
1998 – About 500 people attended the parish’s 25th anniversary
2006 – New two-story parish center completed