Flannery O’Connor’s Appearances in the Georgia Catholic Diocesan Paper The Bulletin

by Daniel Britt, Mandy Mastrovita, and Donnie Summerlin

The Digital Library of Georgia, in conjunction with our partners at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah, recently digitized the historic Bulletin newspaper (1920-1962) and made it publicly available on the Georgia Historic Newspapers website.

The Bulletin was first published in January 1920 as the official organ for the Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia and shortly became Georgia’s leading Catholic newspaper.

In 1963, the publication split into two separate diocesan papers, the Bulletin (Archdiocese of Atlanta) and the Southern Cross (Diocese of Savannah). Among the paper’s vast array of content, it [still] includes reviews of Catholic written works.

From 1956 to 1964, Georgia writer Flannery O’Connor regularly contributed to the paper’s book reviews section. However, her first appearance in the publication was where she was credited as a budding cartoonist.

The Bulletin (Augusta, Ga.) 1920-1957, June 26, 1943, page 10

Stephanie Braddy, Director of Archives & Records Management, Catholic Diocese of Savannah, notes that for O’Connor researchers “the articles offer further insight into Ms. O’Connor’s wit and personality, as well as her firmly held beliefs related to writing, and Catholicism.”

Well-known as a devout Catholic, she reviewed 143 titles spanning genres in both nonfiction and fiction, but, more specifically, she almost always explored Christian subject matter.

As evidenced by her desire to review works by controversial figures such as the French Jesuit priest and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, O’Connor displayed a deep interest in increasing her intellectual engagement with Catholicism.

Matt Davis, Director of Historic Museums at Georgia College & State University, observes that : “Flannery O’Connor kept a very strict schedule during the last years of her life in Milledgeville.  “Rising early to attend mass, she would then spend the remainder of her morning writing as her health allowed. With easy online access to O’Connor’s work in The Bulletin, the public and scholars of all levels have been provided another window to show how her faith and writing intertwined.”

These reviews were intended for a Catholic audience and focused on religious topics. As a result, they provide insights into O’Connor’s writing process not readily found in her works of fiction.

In his introduction to Leo J. Zuber’s compilation of O’Connor book reviews The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews by Flannery O’Connor, Carter W. Martin remarks, “one of the pleasures. . . is to savor the quality of Flannery O’Connor’s mind at work on the serious intellectual content of her faith. Here is confirmation, if we need it, that her art arose from religious convictions that she subjected to intense scrutiny not only in her heart but in her mind as well.”

Below, we’ve curated select pages from the Bulletin featuring writing by and about Flannery O’Connor. The paper’s run is available on the Georgia Historic Newspapers website, https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/gua1449731/ , and O’Connor’s appearances have been gathered together here.

Selected images: 

O’Connor’s first book review appeared in the Bulletin’s March 3, 1956 issue, an issue in which her collection of short stories, entitled ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find,’ was also reviewed. Regarding her first book review, O’Connor noted to Notre Dame professor John Lynch, “As for fiction, the motto of the Catholic press should be: We guarantee to corrupt nothing but your taste.”

The Bulletin, March 3, 1956. https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/gua1449731/1956-03-03/ed-1/seq-15/

In an unusually lengthy three-column Bulletin article, O’Connor reviewed Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s ‘The Phenomenon of Man.’

The Bulletin (Monroe, Ga.), February 20, 1960. https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/gua1189460/1960-02-20/ed-1/seq-3/

A front-page editorial for The Georgia Bulletin’s book supplement section, by O’Connor, entitled “Fiction is Subject With A History – It Should Be Taught that Way.” She argues the importance of a firm understanding of the past, writing that “many students go to college unaware that the world was not made yesterday…”

The Georgia Bulletin (Atlanta, Ga.), March 21, 1963. https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/sn22193774/1963-03-21/ed-1/seq-8/

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.