Mary Our Queen, Norcross
Opened as a mission of All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody, Georgia, in November 1994, the parish of Mary Our Queen started life humbly in an office building on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in nearby Norcross. On March 15, 2006, the mission became a parish.
Initially there were 70 registered families. Mass was celebrated on Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. and at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays. Within a few years, the parish added another Mass on Sunday at 11:00 a.m., developed an adult choir, contemporary choir and children’s choir supported by lectors, altar servers, Eucharistic ministers, ushers and a nursery.
In 1997 a 15,000-square-foot temporary church was built and an adjacent 6,000-square-foot educational facility was purchased, named the Trinity Building, on a 15-acre site at the intersection of The Corners Parkway and Crooked Creek Road in the Peachtree Corners area of Norcross. The sanctuary seats 600, while the Trinity Building houses the church’s school of religion program.
To replace the temporary structure and accommodate a growing church membership, Mary Our Queen launched a capital campaign to raise money for the construction of a new church. The parish enlisted the help of Harrison Design Associates, an internationally prominent architectural and design firm, to develop plans for the new church. During that same time, Father David M. Dye came forward with an idea to buy and move a more significant classic church than the parish could ever hope to build.
Visiting around in the Northeast, the pastor and the architect, Bill Harrison, a Southern Baptist, came upon Saint Gerard Church in the Diocese of Buffalo, New York. To their astonishment, it was discovered that the floor plan and overall style of the magnificent church was within five percent of the architect’s own plans for a new church in Norcross. The major difference was the vastly superior quality of the materials used in the construction of the 98-year-old church.
To begin the 900 mile pilgrimage of Saint Gerard Church to Atlanta, the parish, which had already raised $3 million for the construction of a new church, committed its funds to the relocation. The campaign to raise additional funds, with the slogan “Moved By Grace,” has its own website at http://www.movedbygrace.com/
Saint Gerard Church, completed in 1911, is a Gilded Age approximation (at one-third scale) of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of the four major basilicas of Rome. Its exterior is of Indiana limestone. The interior is travertine marble and beautifully done plaster. The style of the church is a mix of neoclassical and baroque, with hints of art moderne. Twelve solid granite columns line the nave. Along the interior are ornamental coffered ceilings and a dome in the apse with a triumphant painting of the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven. When relocated to Norcross, the church will be metropolitan Atlanta’s first church of such combined size, strength, material quality, decoration and finish. A review indicates no churches of comparable architectural and construction quality anywhere in the Southeast.
The old church was forced to close in January 2008 due to a dwindling parish membership and left to fend for itself near the shore of Lake Erie. With each freeze and thaw cycle, the window of time for preservation shrank. The splendidly executed structure needed a new boiler, plaster and roof repairs and new leading for its luminous stained glass. Disassembling, moving and reassembling the church in Atlanta will ensure that its life continues as originally intended by the immigrants who created the monument and maintained it for nearly a century. By the time the church gets to Atlanta and opens its doors to the parishioners of Mary Our Queen, it will be reconstructed and beautifully restored to live on into the next 100 years as a house of worship.
Carolyn S. Denton
August 12, 2010