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'Leaning into the future God has for us': Atlanta's Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church nearing goal for $3M capital campaign

Atlanta's "Mother Church for Black Catholics", more than a century old, is looking to expand and is looking for donors.

Atlanta’s “Mother Church” for Black Catholics is fundraising for a $3M capital campaign in view of a new church building.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, the 110-year old parish located just around the corner from Ebenezer Baptist (formerly pastored by Martin Luther King Jr.), kicked off the initiative in April and plans to continue through 2024.

“When I had the privilege of becoming pastor nearly 11 years ago, I saw that Lourdes parishioners are mission-oriented and dedicated to helping the ‘least, lost, and last’ among us,” wrote Fr Jeffery Ott, OP in the brochure for the campaign.

“Our commitment to social action comes to life every day.”

The work includes their Lourdes Lunch food ministry, a chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society providing financial assistance to families and individuals, an HIV/AIDS ministry, and their partnership with a school and church in Haiti.

The parish is also well-known for its gospel choir, which recorded a studio album in 2015, “Reap a Harvest in Due Season

Like many Black Catholic institutions, Lourdes was founded with funds from St Katharine Drexel in the early 20th century. The priest involved was one Fr Ignatius Lissner, SMA (who later helped found one of the three historically Black religious orders in the US, the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary).

Growth at Lourdes over the years led to a previous expansion in 1998, and with the parish now boasting of 1,200 families, further action was a long time coming.

“Leaning into the future God has for us—and the possibilities and promise of our growing parish—ignited our original drive in 2008 to purchase property next to our current home and begin initial planning and design work for a new church,” said Ott.

Since then, the parish has purchased land for a parking lot and just in the last 6 months received pledges totaling more than $2.3M towards the construction of a new 500-seat edifice, doubling the current capacity (and mirroring the jump in participation seen in their livestreams during the pandemic).

The church is currently soliciting a variety of donation types, including one-time giving, financial pledges, and non-traditional giving such as stocks, bonds, personal property, and IRAs.

Just prior to the kickoff of the campaign, Dr. Leah Mickens of the University of Pittsburgh—a Lourdes parishioner as recently as 2019—was named the inaugural recipient of the Cyprian Davis, OSB Prize for her upcoming book on Lourdes and its interplay with Ebenezer, the Civil Rights Movement and Vatican II.

Her dissertation, upon which the book is based, will be released next summer, and Lourdes plans to break ground on the new church in 2025.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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