The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta  

History of the Archdiocese of Atlanta

Mission Statement

We, the faithful of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, are a people of prayer, love and joy who are dedicated to the salvation of all. As disciples and believers in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we proclaim the good news and grow in faith, hope, love, and service to others. We are unified in our commitment to sacramental life, pastoral care, and life-long formation in our Roman Catholic faith. We express our love through evangelization, fellowship, Catholic education, social services and charity in the full pursuit of effective discipleship.

| Bishop and Archbishops of the Archdiocese of Atlanta | Province of Atlanta | Parishes | Statistics |

The Catholic Church in Georgia

The Catholic population in North Georgia can trace its beginnings to a little mission in Locust Grove where a small group of faithful from Charles County, Maryland began worshipping sometime between 1790 and 1792. Ever since they built their first log cabin church in 1800, eight years before the Archdiocese of Baltimore was even established, the Catholic population has experienced steady growth. By 1824 the church was referred to as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in 1826 was incorporated by an act of the Georgia General Assembly. It was in 1850 that Catholics in Georgia and parts of Florida became a new diocese, the Diocese of Savannah. By the time of the Civil War, there were 4,000 Catholics in Georgia alone, with parishes in Atlanta, Savannah, Macon, Columbus and Locust Grove.

After the war, along with the growth of the city of Atlanta, came a new growth in the Catholic population. The first Catholic church in Atlanta, the Immaculate Conception, built in 1848, was used as a hospital during the Civil War. Immaculate Conception’s present church was built between 1869 and 1880. In 1954 the church became a Shrine and later, in 1984, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish was next established in 1880 when Atlanta only had 37,409 souls. Originally it was known as Saints Peter and Paul until 1898. It was also in the year of 1880 that the Sisters of Mercy opened an infirmary on Baker Street which later became Saint Joseph Hospital. Saint Anthony Parish was established in 1903, adding a school in 1912, the same year that Our Lady of Lourdes Parish was formed.

The Diocese of Savannah-Atlanta

In 1936, the Diocese of Savannah-Atlanta was established and the Cathedral of Christ the King on Peachtree Street was erected. Bishop Gerald P. O'Hara (b.1895-d.1963), appointed Bishop of Savannah in 1935, was the last Bishop to serve the faithful of the entire state of Georgia.

The Diocese of Atlanta

The Diocese of Atlanta was established in 1956 when the northern 71 counties of Georgia were separated from the Diocese of Savannah and assigned to the new diocese giving the state two dioceses. The number was later reduced to 69 when two counties were returned to the jurisdiction of the Savannah Diocese. At the time, the Diocese of Atlanta, which covered 23,000 square miles, numbered 23,600 Catholics in 23 parishes and 12 missions. The total population in the region totaled 1,800,000. The first Bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta was Francis E. Hyland (1901 - 1968), who had first served as Auxiliary Bishop of Savannah since 1949. He began his service to the new diocese as the city of Atlanta and the Catholic population of the area was experiencing rapid growth. Bishop Hyland resigned in 1961.

The Archdiocese of Atlanta

On February 21, 1962 the Diocese of Atlanta was elevated to the status of Archdiocese, becoming the center of an Ecclesiastical Province which included the states of Georgia, North and South Carolina and Florida.  (Florida was detached in 1969 to become the Province of Miami). That year the Catholic population of the diocese numbered 32,000 out of a total population of 2,152,000. When the Diocese of Atlanta became the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the ecclesiastical Province of Atlanta came into being as well.

The Archbishops

Paul J. Hallinan (b. 1911, d. 1968), Bishop of Charleston, S.C., was named the first Archbishop of Atlanta. During the last two years of his life, Archbishop Hallinan was assisted by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph L. Bernardin, who subsequently became Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago.

Since Archbishop Hallinan’s reign, the Archdiocese has been served by five succeeding archbishops. Thomas A. Donnellan (b.1914, d.1987) was Archbishop from 1968 until his death. Eugene A. Marino (b.1934, d.2000), the first black Archbishop in the United States, served from 1988 to 1990. James P. Lyke (b.1939, d.1992) was installed as Archbishop in 1991 and died the following year. John Francis Donoghue (b.1928, d.2011) was appointed the fifth Archbishop of Atlanta in 1993 and served until his retirement in 2004.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, S.L.D. (b. 1947) was appointed sixth Archbishop of Atlanta on December 9, 2004 and was installed on January 17, 2005. He was ordained a Catholic priest at the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 9, 1973. He was then ordained a Bishop in 1983. Bishop Gregory was installed as the Seventh Bishop of Belleville in 1994, following ten years as Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. In 2001, Bishop Gregory was elected President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, following three years as Vice President under Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston.

The Archdiocese Today

Since the beginning of Archbishop Gregory's tenure in Atlanta, eight additional parishes have been organized, as well as five missions, for a total of 101 parishes and missions (including one station and a basilica), while the Catholic population of the Archdiocese has risen to over 1,000,000. The oldest operating parish in the archdiocese, originally established as a mission in 1845, is Saint Joseph in Washington, Georgia. The oldest Catholic church still standing is Sacred Heart in Milledgeville, Georgia, which was built in 1874. 

In 2009, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, named the Most Reverend Luis Rafael Zarama of Pasto, Colombia, as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. 

In 2013, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, named the Most Reverend David P. Talley of Columbus, GA as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.