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Retired Black Catholic clergy in Atlanta to be honored in event Oct. 29

A Black Catholic clergy group in Atlanta is organizing an event later this month honoring retired members, including history-making priests and deacons.

(Black Catholic Clergy of Atlanta)

Several retired Black clergy of the Archdiocese of Atlanta will be feted in an event just ahead of Black Catholic History Month, on October 29 at St. Peter Claver Regional Catholic School in Decatur, Georgia.

“Celebrating The Work: Honoring Retired Black Atlantan Priests & Deacons” is being organized by the Black Catholic Clergy of Atlanta (BCCA), a group of priests and deacons dedicated to faith sharing and “social justice, the place where Jesus dwells.”

The event was announced last month, part of the organization's “Atlanta Start” initiative, and will honor 10 men, several of whom made history in their respective ministries.

Among priests to be honored is Msgr Edward Branch, a former Xaverian brother who in 1974 became the first Black priest ordained for the Archdiocese of Louisville. He was later incardinated in Atlanta after serving twenty years as the chaplain of Lyke House, the Catholic campus ministry at the Atlanta University Center, beginning in 1990.

Fr William “Bill” Norvel, SSJ is also on the docket, a Josephite priest from Mississippi known for helping to establish gospel choirs and Black liturgy in parishes across the country in the late 20th century. He also became the first African-American male superior general in history when he was elected to lead his religious community in 2011. He retired to Atlanta following his term.

Fr Giles Conwill, another Louisville native, was ordained for the Diocese of San Diego in 1973 and was formerly director of the vocations department for the former National Office for Black Catholics. He later became a history professor at Morehouse College, where he served as department chair and retired in 2010.

Fr Bruce Wilkinson, who retired in 2017, was ordained for the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 1981 and pastored several Black parishes there. His last assignment, at Most Blessed Sacrament Church, began in 1992 and lasted nearly a quarter of a century. Wilkinson was also the inaugural director of Atlanta’s archdiocesan Black Catholic ministry.

Seven of the archdiocese’s retired Black deacons will also be honored, including Dcns Joe Goolsby, Joe Barker Sr., Fred Sambrone, Alfred Mitchell, James Anderson, Augustine Pierre-Louis, and the late Hillard Lee.

The event is scheduled to begin at 6:30 ET in the St. Peter Claver School gymnasium, and those interested in attending can contact Fr Roy Lee at or (404) 226-8170. Tickets are $35.

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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