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 Southern Cross, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Savannah, are now available freely online on the Georgia Historic Newspapers website

In conjunction with our partners at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah, the Southern Cross (1963-2000) is now available for viewing at the Georgia Historic Newspapers website at gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/sn22185748/. These newspapers will contribute to a broader scholarship about Catholicism in Savannah as well as in Georgia. The Georgia Historic Newspapers Archive web site 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. 

About the Southern Cross

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 Bulletin (Archdiocese of Atlanta) and The Southern Cross (Diocese of Savannah). The CLA disbanded in 1962, but the paper continued and exists today as the bi-monthly Southern Cross.

Michael Johnson, editor of the Southern Cross, comments:

“The mission of the Southern Cross, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Savannah, is to help carry out the mission of the diocese through the print medium. It does … in the form of news articles, feature stories, commentary on aspects of the Faith, and their application to daily life … Through the local stories and photographs carried in the Southern Cross, the bishop and pastoral staff can communicate with the diocesan family, and the parishes can share their activities with one another.”

About the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah Archives

The Diocese of Savannah Archives was established as a private, institutional collection in accordance with Canon 491 to store and provide access to the permanent records of the Diocese of Savannah. It primarily collects inactive original records created by the work of Diocesan administration, parishes, and schools. Visit them at diosav.org/archives 

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