Atlanta, Archdiocese of
ATLANTA, ARCHDIOCESE OF
The Archdiocese of Atlanta (Atlantensis embraces 69 counties in the northern part of Georgia. The area was part of the Diocese of savannah (1850–1937), then Savannah-Atlanta (1937–56), and was established as an independent diocese July 2, 1956. Created an archdiocese Feb. 21, 1962, its suffragans include the Dioceses of Charleston, SC, Charlotte, NC, Raleigh, NC, and Savannah, GA. In 2000 the Catholic population of the diocese numbered about 320,000 in a total population of about 5,000,000. Catholicism in the area centered principally in the vicinity of the city of Atlanta.
The city of Atlanta, founded in 1836, was originally called "Terminus," because it was the point at which five railway lines converged on northern Georgia. Its first Catholic parish, the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, was established in 1848. Father Thomas O'Reilly, who became pastor of the shrine in 1861, was instrumental in saving five downtown churches of various denominations, including Immaculate Conception, from the fire set at General William T. Sherman's orders in 1864. A second parish, Sacred Heart, was established in 1880. Saint Anthony's Church opened in 1903 and added a school in 1912, the same year in which Our Lady of Lourdes Church opened.
The first Sisters of Mercy arrived in Atlanta in 1866 to teach. Additional sisters of mercy opened an infirmary, which later became Saint Joseph's Hospital, in 1880. The Sisters of saint joseph first came to what is now the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 1876, when they moved their orphanage, later known as the Village of Saint Joseph, from Savannah to Washington, GA. The Village closed as a residential treatment center in 1998 and now offers counseling services to families.
Although Savannah Bishop Thomas A. Becker petitioned Rome to transfer the see to faster-growing Atlanta in 1896, his petition was denied as "inopportune." By the time Gerald P. O'Hara became Bishop of Savannah (1935), Atlanta's continued growth could no longer be ignored. He petitioned Pope Pius XI to designate the diocese "Savannah-Atlanta." According to the terms of the decree, authorized on January 5, 1937, the bishop would reside part-time in Atlanta and would minister to his metropolitan flocks on alternate Holy Weeks. The new church of Christ the King (built on land originally owned by the Ku Klux Klan) was designated a "co-cathedral ad honorem." In 1944 the Trappist monks established the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Ghost near Atlanta at Conyers, GA.
When Atlanta was established a diocese in its own right in 1956, Francis E. Hyland, a native of Philadelphia, PA, and auxiliary bishop of the Savannah-Atlanta diocese since 1949, became its first bishop. Hyland resigned on October 11, 1961 (and retired to St. Charles Seminary where he died, January 31, 1968). The following February, Pope John XXIII created Atlanta an archdiocese and appointed Bishop Paul J. hallinan, of Charleston, SC, the first archbishop. Hallinan, a rising star in the American hierarchy, contracted hepatitis while in Rome for the Second Vatican Council and died on March 27, 1968. His successor, Joseph L. bernardin (d. 1996), who since 1966 had been auxiliary bishop, served only a brief time before being appointed General Secretary of the United States Catholic Conference, April 5, 1968. Ogdensburg Bishop Thomas A. Donnellan, installed as Atlanta's third bishop (second archbishop) on May 29, 1968, served until his death on October 15, 1987. His successor, Archbishop Eugene A. Marino, SSJ, was the first African American appointed a residential archbishop in the United States (March 14, 1988). He resigned for personal reasons in 1990 and died in 2000. Cleveland's auxiliary bishop James P. Lyke, OFM, served as Apostolic Administrator from July 10, 1990 until his appointment as archbishop on April 30, 1991. Lyke, the nation's second African-American archbishop, died of cancer on December 27, 1992.
Lyke was succeeded by John Francis Donoghue, who had served as Bishop of Charlotte from 1984 until his appointment to Atlanta on June 22, 1993.
Although the industrialization of the diocese in the latter half of the 20th century had attracted many Catholics, they still constituted only 6% of the overall population in 2000. The diocese publishes a weekly newspaper, The Georgia Bulletin, whose origins lie in The Bulletin of the Georgia Catholic Laymen's Association, founded in Augusta in 1916 at the urging of Savannah Bishop Benjamin J. Keiley.
Bibliography: j. j. o'connell, Catholicity in the Carolinas and Georgia 1820–1878 (New York 1879). t. j. shelley, Paul J. Hallinan. First Archbishop of Atlanta (Wilmington, DE, 1989).
[d. k. clark]