Two mid-twentieth-century collections, now digitized and available freely online, recall Atlanta neighborhoods lost to urban renewal, and Georgia’s growing Catholic community

Two new collections of digitized films and slides documenting the growth of Georgia’s Catholic community between 1938-1979 are now available freely online from the Digital Library of Georgia.

With these materials from Marist School educators Reverend Michael Kerwick, SM,  (1912-1990) and Reverend Vincent Brennan, SM, (1912-1993), we are able to piece together the history of the Marist School’s campus, community, and activities at its former location (as Marist College) in downtown Atlanta and its Brookhaven home (as Marist School) on Ashford-Dunwoody Road in DeKalb County. 

The time periods of Father Kerwick’s and Father Brennan’s collections coincide with the exponential growth of the city’s Catholic community. During the mid-20th century, Atlanta claimed 30,000 Catholic residents. By the end of the century, that number grew to nearly 300,000. 

These materials also show portions of downtown Atlanta that were lost through development in the 1950s and early 1960s. A major reason for Marist School’s relocation to suburban Brookhaven was the encroaching development of the interstate system and the use of eminent domain to acquire portions of the original campus. Scenes from the original campus and downtown street scenes have captured buildings and streetscapes that were lost to urban renewal.

Dr. Michael Bieze and Dr. Louisa Moffitt, archivists at the Marist School say: “The [digitized] images were taken by Father Vincent Brennan during those years before Marist School was moved to its suburban location in the mid-1960s and includes image from both the old campus on Ivy Street, as well as images of the new campus on Ashford-Dunwoody Road.” 

Some additional themes covered in these collections include school commencements, athletics programs, formal events such as promenades, and visits to Marist parishes throughout Georgia. Dr. Bieze and Dr. Moffitt both add: “In addition, there are images of Brunswick, Saint Simons Island, Darien, and Jekyll Island during those years.”

View the Reverend Michael Kerwick, SM, Film Collection online 
View the Reverend Vincent Brennan, SM, Papers Collection online 

About the Archives of the Society of Mary, Province of the United States  

The mission of the archives is to collect, preserve, and make available manuscripts, records, photographs, audiovisual materials, artifacts, books, and other items that document the ministries, houses, and personnel of the Society of Mary in the United States. Although Marists first arrived in Louisiana in 1863, items in the collection date from the early 1800s through 2020. The provincial archives for the U.S. Province have been housed in the rectory at Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia since 2000, when the former Washington and San Francisco provinces consolidated into the Atlanta province. The archival collection of the former Boston province was moved from Framingham to Atlanta in 2014.

Selected images from the collection: 

Images courtesy of Society of Mary (Marists) U.S. Province Archives

A 1941 photograph of a gathering of white Catholic clergy including several Marists on the front steps of the Our Lady of Lourdes Colored Mission (later known as the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church), Atlanta's first African American Catholic church.

Title: Catholic Colored Mission of Our Lady of Lourdes Dedication  

URL: https://dlg.usg.edu/record/mpua_vinb_vb234-00001 

Description: A 1941 photograph of a gathering of white Catholic clergy including several Marists on the front steps of the Our Lady of Lourdes Colored Mission (later known as the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church), Atlanta’s first African American Catholic church. From inventory notes: December 14, 1941, attended by several Marists. Gerald O’Hara, Bishop of (then-) Savannah-Atlanta. Located on Forrest Avenue. 

Photograph of the Marist College Ivy Street Campus building and courtyard, taken in 1961.

Title: Marist College Ivy Street Campus slide 4         

URL: https://dlg.usg.edu/record/mpua_vinb_vb058-00001  

Description: Photograph of the Marist College Ivy Street Campus building and courtyard, taken in 1961.

Still shot of a member of the Catholic clergy at the Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia performing rites on an elderly woman

Title: Brennan Unidentified 2

URL: http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/do:mpua_mker_brennanunidentified2

Description:  Short film clip of a member of the Catholic clergy at the Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia performing rites on a woman and a number of students posing on a set of steps.

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Issues of the Georgia Bulletin, the weekly newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, are now available freely online on the Georgia Historic Newspapers website

ATHENS, Ga. — In conjunction with our partners at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Georgia Bulletin (1963-1980) is now available for viewing at the Georgia Historic Newspapers website. These newspapers will contribute to a broader scholarship about Catholicism in Atlanta as well as in Georgia. The Georgia Historic Newspapers Archive website provides access to these newspapers, enabling full-text searching and browsing by date and title. The site is compatible with all current browsers and the newspaper page images can be viewed without the use of plug-ins or additional software downloads. The archive is free and open for public use. 

In the first issue of the Georgia Bulletin, published January 4, 1963, Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan, the first archbishop for the newly elevated Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, remarked:

“The religious press is not intended to be a ‘house organ’ or a ‘trade sheet.’ Its whole reason for being is that it might enter the community bearing light and courage—light enough to expose society’s ills as well as its strengths; courage enough to inspire justice and charity in those who might falter along the path.”

Angelique M. Richardson, the director of archives and records for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta emphasizes: “By making these digitized issues of our diocesan newspaper available to the public through the Georgia Historic Newspapers Project, we greatly hope that these words inspire researchers to learn more about the history of Catholics in North Georgia.”

She adds: “We would never have been able to accomplish a project like this on our own.”

Featured images:

Title: Georgia Bulletin (Atlanta), June 27, 1963, Page 1
Description: This issue, dated June 27, 1963, commemorating the coronation of Pope Paul VI, who would be crowned three days later on June 30. Pope Paul VI served as the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from June 21, 1963, to his death on August 6, 1978. Pope Paul VI was the last pope to be crowned.
Title: Georgia Bulletin (Atlanta), May 28, 1964, Page 1
Description: Dated May 28, 1964, this issue of the Georgia Bulletin announces the establishment of three new parishes in the Atlanta area, which include the Parish of the Church of the Holy Spirit, the Parish of the Church of the Holy Cross, and the Parish of St. Mark’s.

About the Georgia Bulletin

To fight Catholic prejudice and resist the spread of false information regarding Catholic beliefs and history, the Catholic Laymen’s Association (CLA) of Georgia was founded in 1916. 

The CLA published pamphlets that explained Catholic beliefs for several years and before establishing the Bulletin of the Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia, in January of 1920. The Bulletin ran as a monthly newspaper out of Augusta until 1956 when the organization changed the name to the Bulletin of the Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia, Official Newspaper for the Diocese of Savannah & Atlanta; this change coming after the diocese divided into two regions, Atlanta and Savannah. 

For a few months in early 1958, the Diocese of Savannah published the Savannah Bulletin, before the Bulletin began circulating two editions for Savannah and Atlanta through 1962. In 1963, the publication split into two separate diocesan papers, the Georgia Bulletin (Archdiocese of Atlanta) and the Southern Cross (Diocese of Savannah). The CLA disbanded in 1962, but the Georgia Bulletin continues publication as the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

About the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The Archdiocese of Atlanta encompasses the northern half of Georgia covering 21,445 square miles. Specifically, it includes the 69 counties north of and including the following counties: Lincoln, McDuffie, Warren, Hancock, Baldwin, Putnam, Jasper, Monroe, Upson, Meriwether, and Troup. The Archdiocese of Atlanta is a vibrant, diverse, and rapidly growing Catholic community.  

As of 2020, there are 102 parishes and missions, 293 diocesan and religious priests, 46 seminarians, 66 women religious, 18 archdiocesan Catholic schools, 1.2 million Catholics, and 7.5 million people in north-central Georgia. 

The history of the Archdiocese goes back to the late 1700s. Originally part of the Diocese of Savannah, Atlanta was made a diocese in 1956 and made an archdiocese in 1962. 

The Province of Atlanta is comprised of five dioceses. Visit archatl.com.

About the Digital Library of Georgia

Based at the University of Georgia Libraries, the Digital Library of Georgia is a GALILEO initiative that collaborates with Georgia’s libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions of education and culture to provide access to key information resources on Georgia history, culture, and life. 

This primary mission is accomplished through the ongoing development, maintenance, and preservation of digital collections and online digital library resources. DLG also serves as Georgia’s service hub for the Digital Public Library of America and as the home of the Georgia Newspaper Project, the state’s historic newspaper microfilming project. 

Visit the DLG at dlg.usg.edu.

Facebook: http://facebook.com/DigitalLibraryofGeorgia/ 

Twitter: @DigLibGA

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