A BRIEF HISTORY of ALL SAINTS CATHOLIC CHURCH
In the gospel, the Evangelists Matthew and Luke tell us the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. In giving them the prayer that we now call “The Our Father”, He taught them to pray the petition “Thy Kingdom Come”. He describes the kingdom in these words: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of the seeds, yet when fully grown, it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush and the birds of the sky come and rest in its branches”. Matthew 13:31, Luke13:19 and Mark 4:31. Later on, He reminds His disciples that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, nothing would prove impossible for them. Matthew 17:20 and Luke 17:6.
Around the year 1791, the first mustard seed of the Catholic faith was planted in Georgia. A group of Catholics from the state of Maryland came to settle in Wilkes County, Georgia. The settlement became known as Locust Grove and was so named because of the many Locust trees that grew in the area at that time. In 1792, Bishop John Carroll sent Fr. John Le Moine to minister to these people. The mustard seed had been planted, and the Catholic Faith had taken root and was about to grow. The growth was slow but strong, and sixty years later the Diocese of Savannah was established on July 3, 1850, under the care of Bishop Francis Gartland. In January, 1937, further growth was marked by the renaming of the Savannah Diocese to Savannah – Atlanta Diocese. Nineteen years later, on July 2, 1956, Atlanta would be established as its own diocese with Auxiliary Bishop Francis Hyland named as its first bishop. The diocese was comprised of 21 parishes, 12 missions, 25 diocesan priests, 85 nuns, 20 seminarians and 23,000 Catholics. On February 21, 1962, Atlanta became a Metropolitan Archdiocese with Bishop Paul Hallinan named as its first archbishop.
Twenty-one years later on April 11, 1977, All Saints parish was established with Fr. Joseph Beltran as its first pastor. There were 100 founding families. Initially, they met in an office space at Exchange Place and within a month the parish had grown to 300 families. In October, 1978, groundbreaking took place for our present structure on 11 wooded acres that were purchased in 1971. On December 22, 1979, Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan dedicated the new church, praying over the parishioners “that you may go forth as living examples of the Lord Jesus Christ in you”. Msgr. Marren had just come to Atlanta, being ordained for the Archdiocese in June, 1976.
Looking back, Atlanta was much different than now. At that time, we had about 80 priests and one hundred thousand Catholics. Today we have about 250 priests with over eight hundred thousand Catholics. Despite the fact that we have a very viable vocations program, we still are not able to keep up with the growing Catholic population. Fortunately today we are blessed with about 250 dedicated deacons who do wonderful work as is evidenced here at All Saints.
When All Saints was established there were just over 40 parishes in the Archdiocese. Since then we have added about 50 more, a number of them as our neighbors like St. Brigid, St. Peter Chanel, St. Andrew, St. Ann and Mary Our Queen, to mention a few. Also during that time, seven elementary schools and four high schools were opened along with a number of home-school programs.
The ethnicity of our Catholic population is also much more diverse than it was in 1977. In 1996, All Saints was enriched as we welcomed our Chinese Catholic community to the parish. Here they celebrate the liturgy and other devotions on a weekly basis. The Hispanic Catholic community has grown rapidly as have the Asian, Vietnamese, and Korean Catholic communities. Also, our Eastern Rite Catholic Community has also flourished. For all of this we are truly blessed.
Looking back, I-75, I-85 and I-285 were just two lane expressways. Sidney Marcus Blvd. was a dirt road, and state route 400 was not completed. North Point Mall did not exist and Perimeter Mall was only a glorified strip mall. The once tall Atlanta Hyatt Regency Hotel of the early 70’s now stands dwarfed amidst the city’s skyscrapers. Even of late, the once noble trees of Dunwoody Parkway have fallen to change.
Today, All Saints has grown from the initial hundred families to two thousand, three hundred families, and the question has been raised as to how our present structures can be made to meet not only our present needs but the needs of the future.