Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta
The following text appeared in a commemorative program
published on the occasion of the Centennial Anniversary of the Shrine of the
Immaculate Conception in 1969.
The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception! From the beginning its
colorful story and experience have been coextensive with that of Atlanta, of
Georgia, and even to a great extent, of American history. The Shrine building,
the oldest in downtown Atlanta, whose centennial we celebrate at this time,
carries one back to the charm of another era and blends in with the changes of
the new. Here, long ago is never far away; the past is always present.
The Atlanta experience was not so much a child of the frontier as
it was of the industrial revolution. True, pioneers like Hardy Ivy established
a log cabin in the area by 1833, but it was the building of the railroad which
would lift the future of Atlanta from its agricultural surroundings into that
of an industrial age of which today she is a giant.
When Chief Engineer Stephen H. Long drove the stake for the
terminus of the Western and Atlantic Railroad in 1837, he probably had no dream
of the great city he had started. Not the farmers, but railroad workers,
engineers, mechanics, merchants, builders came to this terminus to build an
empire stretching by ribbons of steel to the Atlantic Ocean, from which Atlanta
got its name; feminine in form, masculine in energy. The history of the
Immaculate Conception parish begins with these people, among whom were
Catholics, mostly of Irish ancestry. The names of many of these early Catholic
families have been remembered; among them being founders like Lynch, Cannon,
Dougherty, Doonan, McCullough, Mann, Malone, Lamb, Kay, Gatins, Bloomfield,
Savage, O'Connor, Lewis, Rice, Kerby, Haverty, O'Donnell, O'Sullivan,
Spaulding, and Ryan.
From the first written records of the Atlanta congregation, which
began in 1846, and from other sources, we also learn of its early shepherds.
Those missionary priests, mostly from Augusta and Macon, followed the railroad
from camp to camp, town to town, seeking out Catholics to provide them with the
sacraments and consolations of the Church. Among these early Apostles of North
Georgia were Fathers Peter Whelen, John Graham, John Barry, J. J. O'Connell, J.
F. Kerby, Francis Shannahan, Gregory Duggan, and Jeremiah O'Neill.
Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 1848
Catholics in Atlanta at first held Mass in private homes and a
school building by the railroad, but by 1848 erected a frame church on the same
lot as the present church. These people were especially devoted to Mary, the
Mother of God; they placed a copy of Murillo's Immaculate Conception behind the
altar in respect and devotion to Mary Immaculate. Six years before the Catholic
Church defined its official dogma that Mary the Mother of Jesus was preserved
from original sin at the first moment of her conception, the Catholics of
Atlanta named their church in honor of their belief. To this plain little
church in 1851, came Father Jeremiah F. O'Neill, Jr., their first full-time
pastor. Atlanta Catholics had passed from the spiritual control of Charleston
to that of Savannah when Georgia was made a separate diocese in 1 850 with
Bishop Francis X. Gartland its first titular head.
During the 1850's unprecedented prosperity abounded in Georgia;
cotton was king, political leadership seemed to have staved off threats to the
Union, new factories, railroads, schools, newspapers were the order of the day,
and people with capital poured in from the North. The title was appropriate,
"Empire State of the South." The Church in Atlanta would profit by all this,
especially by the new influx of Catholics.
But this serenity and prosperity was not to last! Atlantans voted
for peace and Union in 1860 by giving the Presidential candidates who stood for
those issues a majority. Against the wishes of the majority of the American
people the Civil War came, the worst kind of war, a brothers' war. Atlanta
became a vast military manufacturing and supply depot for the lower South, and
her sons marched off to the front. The names of Immaculate Conception
parishioners were scattered among the various military companies from Atlanta.
The city was to become a main hospital point with at least ten hospitals where
it is estimated some 75,000 Confederates, plus thousands of Federals, were
treated. These hospitals and many other field hospitals would occupy much of
the time of Immaculate Conception's parishioners and pastors.
With the coming of the war, the providential man of God,
Father Thomas O'Reilly became pastor of the parish
and one of Atlanta's heroes.
Father O'Reilly administered impartially to the Federal troops
making many friends through the ranks. He and Father O'Neill the served
Atlanta, Kingston, La Grange, Marietta, Newnan, and Griffin hospitals. He was
appointed an official Confederate Chaplain in March of 1864. His letter of
recommendation to the Secretary of War, James A. Seddon, sent by the Atlanta
military authorities mentioned:
"He is a highly educated gentleman, and a Christian in every sense
of the word, and we feel and know he would discharge the duties of the position
he desires with the greatest alacrity and promptness."
Father Jeremiah F. O'Neill, Jr., also aided Father O'Reilly in
hospital work, then after the fall of Atlanta he received a commission to work
in the field hospitals of the United States Army of the Cumberland. Besides his
spiritual administration, a chaplain in those days performed a vast variety of
services for the health and welfare of his men.
With the march of the Federal armies toward Atlanta in 1864 and
the resulting battles, the work of these two priests increased. A possible
40,000 casualties flooded Atlanta's hospitals, parks, churches, and homes.
Late July brought another problem with the siege of the city --
worry about possible harm to the church and its parishioners. During the blood
red days of August, exploding shells, concussioned red clay dust, and a sun
hazed by drifting gun smoke turned Atlanta into a nightmare. As the Federal
gunners of the 16th and 2Oth Corps in the Proctor Creek area of northwest
Atlanta aimed at moving trains, the car shed, the round house, and tall smoke
stacks, their shots fell short and the church was not damaged. As far as it is
known, the church building took no direct hits although other buildings in the
same block did; but shrapnel, blood of the wounded, and sharp spurs did leave
On September 2, 1864, the city fell into the hands of the Federal
forces, with still more problems for Father O'Reilly. General Sherman decided
to remove as many Atlantans out of the city as possible so as to give him
freedom of movement. Despite protests, Father O'Reilly lost many of his flock,
but now boys in blue would crowd his church on Sunday.
He assisted United States Catholic Chaplains Brady, Christy, and
Cooney in the Federal field hospitals around Atlanta. This friendship and
service would stand in good need, for on November 9, the final fate of Atlanta
was learned ... its obliteration as a military base -- all structures and
facilities of any possible military use had to go, civilian or not. Father
O'Reilly interceded with General Henry Slocum, commander of the 20th Corps,
then in top command of the city, to save what he could. Confederate General W.
P. Howard, in his official report to the Governor on conditions in Atlanta
several weeks after the Federal departure, tells us of the results:
"The City Hall is damaged but not burned. The Second Baptist,
Second (Central) Presbyterian, Trinity and Catholic churches and all the
residences adjacent between Mitchell and Peters (Trinity Avenue) streets,
running south of east, and Loyd and Washington streets running south of west,
are safe, all attributable to Father O'Reilly, who refused to give up his
parsonage to Yankee officers, who were looking out for fine houses for
quarters, and there being a large number of Catholics in the Yankee army, who
volunteered to protect their Church and Parsonage, and would not allow any
houses adjacent to be fired that would endanger them. As proof of their
attachment to their Church and love for Father O'Reilly, a soldier who
attempted to fire Col. Calhoun's house, the burning of which would have
endangered the whole block was shot and killed, and his grave is now marked. So
to Father O'Reilly the country is indebted for the protection of the City Hall,
Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 1873
As the Federal Army moved out on its famous march to the sea,
one-third of Atlanta still survived; homes and churches here and there, with
about 500 brave people and Father O'Reilly-but most important, its spirit and
will to survive.
By that December, the voices of returning citizens were again
heard in the streets, saws and hammers echoed in the ruins, sermons of hope
were preached in the churches, then soon that familiar whistle of the
locomotive was heard. The spirit of rebuilding caught hold among the
parishioners of Immaculate Conception; they needed a new church. The old
war-damaged church would be out of place now with the new city going up around
it; the city of God must match the city of man. Father O'Reilly thought the
plan too optimistic, but he knew they could do it. Therefore, the war
generation built a monument of love to God, which stands to this very day as a
witness of their undaunted spirit.
Mr. W. H. Parkins, a leading Atlanta architect, drew the plans for
the new church building. The old church was moved to an adjacent lot. Ground
was broken in June, 1869, for the new edifice. The cornerstone was laid on
Wednesday, September, 1, 1869. The Atlauta Daily New Era quaintly writes
Tuesday, August 31, 1869
"The cornerstone of the new Catholic Church now being erected in
this city will be laid by the Right Reverend Bishop Verot of Savannah. It will
be laid according to the beautiful and impressive ceremonies of the Catholic
church, and we doubt not that the occasion will be an interesting one. A great
many persons are expected to be present from other cities, and in view of this
the several railroads entering into the city have reduced the fare to one for
the round trip. After the ceremony of the laying of the cornerstone shall have
been completed, a sermon will be delivered by the Right Reverend A. J. Ryan,
the Poet Priest."
Wednesday, September 1, 1869
"Our thanks are due to a committee for the invitation to attend
the ceremony of the laying of the cornerstone of the Catholic church in this
city. The ceremony will come off at ten o'clock at the church on Loyd street,
and will be conducted by the Right Reverend Bishop Verot of Savannah. The
ceremony will be a most interesting, as well as an unusual one, and will
undoubtedly attract a large crowd. Several arrived yesterday from Savannah,
Macon, Augusta, and Nashville, and many more were expected last night and this
morning. Father Ryan is here and will deliver a discourse from the platform
immediately after the laying of the cornerstone. On the whole, the occasion
will be a most interesting one, and one that is not likely to be witnessed soon
again in our city. Let every one who can be in attendance."
Thursday, September 2, 1869
"In the presence of a very large crowd of spectators, the Rt.
Reverend Augustine Verot, Bishop of Savannah, performed the beautiful and
impressive ceremony of laying the cornerstone of the new Roman Catholic Church
at the corner of Loyd and Hunter streets. Excellent arrangements had been made
for the occasion. A large covered platform had been erected for the clergy and
invited guests, which also afforded seats for a large number of ladies. Seats
had been placed at Hunter and Loyd streets sufficient to accommodate a large
crowd. There were present quite a number of visitors from other cities; some
from Augusta, others from Macon, Savannah, Columbus, Montgomery, and Nashville.
In addition to the distinguished prelate who conducted the ceremonies, there
were present Fathers Coyle of Nashville, Muncy of Montgomery, Bazin of Macon,
Ryan and O'Hara of Augusta. The Hibernian Benevolent Association of the city
turned out in fine regalia, and Fire Company No.1, in full dress uniform. The
members of the Association and the Fire Company formed a procession on Broad
Street and marched down Alabama to Loyd, and down Loyd to the Church where a
large crowd was already collected. Shortly after ten o'clock the venerable
looking Bishop with his retinue of clergy and altar boys, the latter carrying
candles, crucifix, water, salt, and other things to be used in the ceremonies.
They presented a very imposing appearance in their rich and elegant robes.
Before commencing the ceremony, the Bishop made a short address explaining to
the audience the meaning of the forms, and what weight was attached to them by
the Catholic church. He beautifully explained that the water was used with its
emblem and symbol of purification, and the salt as emblematic of wisdom,
typifying by its nature the saving grace of Christ. The altar was first
consecrated, or rather the place where the altar will be erected received a
spoken benediction and water was sprinkled by the bishop with a sprig of
evergreen. The procession then returned to the platform and the bishop
consecrated the cornerstone. It then marched entirely around the church and
consecrated the walls in the same manner. During the whole of the ceremony the
Litany of the Saints was chanted by the clergy. A collection was afterwards
taken up for the benefit of the building fund. The Reverend A. J. Ryan, 'that
thunderbolt of oratory,' 'that rainbow of poetry,' was introduced and preached
the sermon for the occasion. His text was most of the second chapter of the
Epistle to the Ephesians, and he made it the foundation of an argument for the
authority and mission of the Roman Catholic Church. It was a strong discourse.
He announced at the start that he intended to preach a practical sermon, to
divest his discourse of all flowers of eloquence. But that was perfectly
useless. Father Ryan can no more help being eloquent than he can help being
earnest and he can no more help being earnest than the sun can help shining on
a clear day. He has an eloquent look. His person is very fragile, and one would
naturally expect to hear a feeble voice from so feeble a frame. But not so. He
has one of the most penetrating voices we have ever heard, and he makes himself
very easily understood by the whole of a very large audience. His sermon
yesterday was very short, not occupying over twenty minutes. At the close of
the sermon the Bishop granted an indulgence of forty days. The ceremony then
closed with benediction. The procession of Hibernians and Firemen was reformed
and marched back to the engine house through several of the principal streets.
The music of the day was furnished by The Gate City Silver Band under the
competent leadership of Prof. William E. Clarke. We have never heard the band
do better playing. The entire occasion was a most interesting one. It was novel
to perhaps most of the large audience assembled, and was witnessed with a great
deal of pleasure. Few, if any, left before the ceremonies were entirely
Father O'Reilly would not live to see the completion of the new
church. In 1872, the ravages of war which had ruined his health, caused his
death at 41, while in a Virginia sanitarium. His remains were brought back to
his beloved parish where he was given one of the largest funerals up to that
On Wednesday, December 10,1873, the Church of the Immaculate
Conception was formally dedicated by Bishop William Gross of Savannah. The cost
was almost $80,000 and, as described by the Atlanta Constitution, "one
of the most handsome in the South and is an ornament to our city." With the
dedication of the new marble high altar in 1880, the church was substantially
completed. Many new families were among the parishioners and the parish was in
Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 1880
Father James O'Brien, the pastor at the 1880 dedication, was
responsible for Atlanta's first permanent hospital. He bought property on the
present Courtland Street for the Sisters of Mercy for a Catholic Hospital first
known as the Atlanta Hospital, today well known as St.
Joseph's Infirmary. The Sisters of Mercy were already known in Atlanta as
they had arrived in 1866 to operate the parish school housed in the old "Wigwam
In the 1880-1890s tremendous changes were taking place in the
city, as well as the parish. New homes were being built, streets were paved,
and a new daily newspaper, Atlanta Daily Post, had appeared on the
scene. Atlanta moved on with wonderful speed. Every street now had new
buildings, most of them very good indeed -- some were elegant. Even the style
of architecture had improved to be equal to the best in the South. Building was
booming. At times the builders were compelled to remove ashes and rubbish as
fast as possible to make room for the thousands of people who came rushing into
the city whose greatness was not even foreseen.
In 1879, General Sherman made an inspection tour of McPherson
Barracks, now known as Fort McPherson. He was pleasantly surprised with the
progress of the city, to which he gave a toast at a reception given him at the
Kimball House. Assuredly, as General Sherman rode through the thriving reborn
city, he noticed the new Immaculate Conception Church, and the memory of that
gentle priest, Father O'Reilly, must have come to his mind. At that time the
General's own son was studying for the priesthood, later to become a Jesuit
Nine years after the death of Father O'Reilly a young priest,
Father Thomas Francis Cleary, arrived at the Immaculate Conception to serve as
pastor. He was only 28 years of age at this time. The future looked bright for
this young priest, and to have such an important charge at such an early age
was somewhat of an honor. He immediately set forth to fulfill his priestly
duties in his parish, which at that time was probably the most important parish
in the State of Georgia. He soon became a priest worthy of the dignity of his
high office and won the friendship of Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
The plaque in the main entrance of the church speaks of him: "None
knew him but to love him, none named him but to praise."
His reign was but 2 years, from 1881 to 1883. At the age of 30,
due to contraction of tuberculosis, he relinquished his charge and went to
Florida in an effort to regain his health. This failed, and he returned to the
Immaculate Conception for the Easter Services.
Two priests to serve the Immaculate Conception merit the honor to
have a plaque dedicated to them in the vestibule of the church -- Father
O'Reilly and Father Cleary. These same two priests were the only priests ever
to be buried under the altar at the church.
Father Benjamin J. Keiley, an ex-Confederate soldier, and future
Bishop of Savannah, served as its shepherd for the next ten years, the longest
tenure since the beginning of the parish.
Among other changes taking place to affect the parish was the
shifting of the population centers from south to north Atlanta, and the steady
influx of Catholics among the newcomers. The time had come for the Immaculate
Conception to be the "Mother Church" of Catholicity in North Georgia, as she
had once been its cradle. In 1880, Bishop Gross divided the parish,
establishing St. Peter and Paul parish, located at Marietta and Alexander
Streets under the care of Father Peter Whelan.
Not only was the Catholic population of Atlanta growing, but that
also of the cities and towns to the north. Catholics were found in increasing
numbers in Marietta, Rome, Dalton, Adairsville, Austell, Acworth, Ellijay,
Gainesville, Athens, and Tate, to mention a few. The priests of Immaculate
Conception and of the Diocese were not numerous enough to cover the vast area.
Bishop Thomas A. Becker sought the help of the Marist Fathers. It was fitting
that these Sons of Mary should take up missionary work in a parish so loving
and dedicated to her Immaculate Conception. In 1897, the Society of Mary
accepted charge of the parish's first division, St. Peter and Paul parish, plus
care of Catholics in the 9,500 square miles to the north. This parish center
was moved to a more favorable location at Peachtree and Ivy and renamed in
honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, still the first
fruit of Immaculate Conception parish.
The Jesuit Fathers never took advantage of their standing
permission to erect a college for the Catholic youth of the city. The Marists
fell heir to this need and at the request of Bishop Becker opened the doors of
The Marist College in 1901, under the direction of Father John Gunn, S. M., a
future Bishop of Natchez. Part of the Marist effort was to have its
priest-teachers take care of the Catholic missions on Saturdays and Sundays,
some of which are mentioned above. Today, these former missions are thriving
parishes; but it is still the privilege of Marist teachers to keep alive this
tradition by parochial assistance to their brother priests.
The Redemptorist Fathers, who came in force to share the burden of
missionary work, were always represented in Georgia by that early Apostle of
North Georgia, Father William Gross, later fifth Bishop of Savannah.
The main concern here is a review of the "Mother Church," but we
cannot know her well unless we briefly see her children, the parishes to which
her sons and daughters have migrated. Immaculate Conception parishioners in the
west end of Atlanta found it increasingly difficult, transportation-wise, to
reach the church. Father N. 0. Jackson investigated and found the situation
pressing; Bishop Keiley, a former pastor, agreed to establish
St. Anthony in 1903 in the West End section.
The church was finished and dedicated in 1924 by Bishop Michael J. Keyes, S.M.
The Catholics of the Maronite Rite established their parish of St. Joseph in
1911 with Father Paul Azar as first pastor.
Negroes have been among Atlanta's first Catholics. The register of
Immaculate Conception mentions their first baptism, that of Frederick
Fitzgerald in 1851. Father Ignatius Lissner, S.M.A., started a mission in 1912
to win converts among the Atlanta Negroes. Our Lady of
Lourdes became a flourishing parish. St. Paul of the
Cross, another Negro parish in Atlanta's West End, is one of the finest
parishes conducted by the Passionist Fathers.
In June of 1936, Christ the King parish came into existence, and
Immaculate Conception lost its pastor, Father Joseph Moylan, to the new parish.
Bishop Gerald P. O'Hara recognized the importance of
the growing Atlanta church, and made Christ the King his Co-Cathedral, as well
as changing the name of the diocese to that of Savannah-Atlanta. Today Christ
the King is the Cathedral of the Archdiocese.
Further divisions of the Atlanta community, within the memory of
many, came with the inauguration of St. Thomas More
parish in 1941 to take care of the Decatur-area Catholics. Atlanta was still on
the move on its north side, and the first post-war parish established was
Our Lady of the Assumption in 1950. Because of the
industrialization caused by World War II and the return of many ex-servicemen
to Atlanta who took a liking to the place, the general, as well as the
Catholic, populations increased enormously. Probably the three parishes to
benefit most from this were the Assumption, St. John's in Hapeville, and St.
Joseph's in Marietta, now the home of the world's largest airplane. Recent
additions to Atlanta's phenomenal growth were the Holy Spirit, Immaculate Heart
of Mary, Most Blessed Sacrament, St. Jude, and Sts. Peter and Paul parishes.
In the meantime, the Mother Church was not faring too badly,
despite the loss of her parishioners to this rapid growth and prosperity.
Father Robert F. Kennedy, pastor in 1907, gave the church many improvements
such as a steam heating plant, new roof drainage, and electric lights. Father
Emmet M. Walsh finished the interior restoration just in time for the golden
jubilee of the parish in 1923; he was appointed Bishop of Charleston in 1927.
Bishop Keyes appointed Father Joseph E. Moylan as next pastor. Father Joseph G.
Cassidy had been the interim administrator, but was too young for the
Not war, not prosperity, not division of the parish, but the great
depression beginning in 1929, America's worst economic disaster, marked the
first decline for the parish. For as many reasons as there were causes of this
depression, many moved away never to return. Father Moylan united the parish in
the charity of Christ doing his best to alleviate the widespread poverty. There
were hardly over a hundred families in the parish when Father Joseph R. Smith
became pastor in 1936. Father Smith, a convert to the Church and a son of
Sacred Heart Parish, had three special loves --new Immaculate Conception
Academy, to be completed in 1951; Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home,
opened in 1938; and the Trappist Monastery of the Holy Spirit at Conyers. The
first Abbot of the monastery, James Fox, received his abbatial blessing at
Immaculate Conception in 1946.
At the end of World War II, Father Smith told the parishioners
that through the intercession of Our Blessed Lady not a single serviceman from
Immaculate Conception parish was a war casualty. A link with the past occurred
in 1945 when Atlanta said a belated "thank you" to Father O'Reilly for saving
the five churches and other buildings in 1864, by a memorial being erected to
his memory on the lawn of the City Hall.
After the war, the Immaculate Conception parish was still
declining. The toll of the depression, the further loss of parishioners to the
suburbs, and the lack of pleasant living conditions due to downtown business
expansion, left doubts in the minds of some whether the parish would survive.
Auxiliary Bishop Francis E. Hyland was in favor of its sale. The state
government was expanding around Capitol square and had an eye on the parish
property; papers were almost drawn up for the sale of the church property.
Bishop O'Hara came to the rescue and appointed Msgr. James J.
Grady rector in 1951 with instructions to restore and preserve this historic
church of the Immaculate Conception. Msgr. Grady, along with his able and young
assistant, Father Donald Kiernan, despite warnings that a fund drive could
raise no more than $35,000, started a campaign for $75,000. The parishioners
and people of Atlanta proved that Immaculate Conception had lots of life left,
and proceeded to raise $117,000 for the restoration. The work was timed for
completion during the Marian Year of 1954, the 100th anniversary of the
proclamation of the teaching of the Immaculate Conception. Although
Archbishop-Bishop 0'Hara could not be present for the rededication, as he was
then Apostolic Delegate to England, he sent a special letter of decree stating
that this historic church should hereafter be known as the Shrine of the
Immaculate Conception, and Shrine of the entire Atlanta Diocese. This was
announced to the parish at the Solemn Pontifical Mass of rededication by Bishop
Hyland in the June of 1954.
The Shrine was saved, yet the parish struggled with less than a
hundred Catholic families, small for so great a Church. There were still some
who were convinced it would not survive the ravages of time, and that nothing
should stand in the way of progress and change. Again Divine Providence came to
the rescue when Bishop Hyland, of the new Atlanta Diocese, invited the
Franciscan Fathers, of the Holy Name Province, to take charge of the Shrine in
July of 1958, with Father Leonard A. Kelley, O.F.M., as Pastor, and Fathers
Rayner A. Dray, O.F.M., and Raymond A. Beane, 0.F.M., assistants. No better
choice could have been made, as these Sons of St. Francis are experts in caring
for the shines of Christendom, from the Holy Land to America. These Franciscans
have been associated with our Southeast before there was a Georgia. They first
set foot on present Georgia soil in 1584 on Sapelo and St. Catherine's Islands;
within a century they could count some 26,000 Christian Indians in a chain of
missions from South Carolina to Florida, plus five martyrs. In more recent
years, the Friars have staffed missions in the Americus and Thomasville areas
of South Georgia.
Father Arthur D. Murray, O.F.M., the present Pastor since 1964,
has made the Shrine a place of prayer and devotion to which the "sons and
daughters of Immaculate Conception" love to return to refresh themselves with
hallowed memories of yesteryears.
As the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception prepared to celebrate
the centenary of its historic church building, the parishioners and all the
people of Atlanta owe Father Murray a debt of gratitude for his appreciation of
the meaning of the Shrine and his great efforts for its present restoration and
rededication. Mr. Van Buren Colley, the Shrine historian, also deserves our
thanks; his interest, love, and devotion for the Shrine throughout the years,
is typical of its parishioners who have made it a unique Church and Shrine,
"the Mother Church of the Archdiocese." As Mr. Colley puts it so well, in his
"History of the Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception."
"The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was the 'tiny mustard
seed' of Catholicity in this whole area. In the course of the years she has
grown into a huge tree, the branches of which are her flourishing
daughter-parishes. She lives again in her daughter-parishes and will live again
in many more of them in the years to come. The Mother Church of Atlanta is old
but only in years. She lives not only in the daughter-parishes, which she has
nurtured and to which her spirit has spread, but she has a vibrating life of
her own. It is a new life, a new spirit, of which the restoration of her
physical structure is the outward symbol ... The spirit of the Immaculate
Conception parish will live forever. There is no doubt about this. No one can
predict how long the venerable structure will be able to withstand the ravages
and vicissitudes of time, but her magnificent 'new look' of today gives rise to
the hope that for years and generations to come the Shrine of the Immaculate
Conception will stand in the very heart of the city of Atlanta, reminding men
of divine, eternal truths and of their duties to God, and proclaiming the
glories of her holy Patroness, Mary, conceived without sin, the Mother of Our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."