Established in June 1966, St. Thomas the Apostle parish has been a cornerstone of our Catholic faith here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta for more than 40 years. In 2011, we will celebrate the 45th anniversary of our parish. From the small mission church we once were, to one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese of Atlanta we have grown in our Faith and in our Family!
During these past four decades, we have increased to over 6,000 registered families!
Our parish ministries, education programs and outreach organizations number more than 60 and our classrooms, meeting space and sanctuary are used daily from the time the parish opens until late into the evening.
Our religious education programs teach our faith to over 1,000 children. We also have many small faith communities that extend the reach of our sacramental and educational programs to a multitude of groups and cultures within the family of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church.
There is no question that our faith is ALIVE here at St. Thomas the Apostle!
The Amazing Story of St Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church
This is the true and wonderful story of how our living God touched the hearts and inspired the minds of a small group of trusting people, and guided their hands as they sacrificed and toiled to bring into existence this great and wonderful church called St Thomas the Apostle. This story will shock you when you see what a small group of dedicated people with good leadership can accomplished when they answer the call from our Creator to pray, sing, work and sacrifice together.
The story starts back in 1965 when most Catholics in the Smyrna area were attending Mass and receiving their Sacraments at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Marietta. As this group of people grew in number, Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan was convinced that it was time to establish a new parish in the Smyrna area. He chose as his champion Fr. Richard Morrow to start the process of building this new Catholic community. On June 1, 1966, the Archbishop officially established the new parish for the people of the Smyrna area and designated Fr. Morrow as its Pastor.
The first Sunday Mass was celebrated on June 5, 1966, in the cafeteria of Wills High School. About this time there were approximately 300 registered parishioners. To provide a temporary Rectory for our Pastor, on July 5, 1966, Fr. Morrow, and five seminarians from the Archdiocese of Atlanta, moved into a home near the corner of Olive Springs Rd. and what is now Windy Hill Rd. A small devotional chapel was fashioned in the basement for the daily Eucharistic celebration and the administration of Baptism.
The next order of business was for the parishioners to vote on a name for their new parish from a list of six parish patrons submitted by the Archbishop. The results of the vote, in order of preference, were St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Matthew, St. Elizabeth, St.Monica, St. Stephen, and Holy Trinity. Through their votes, the voice of the people was heard and the parish was named St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church.
With hope and great anticipation in their hearts, the parishioners pledged to support a building campaign and agreed that St. Thomas would be a tithing parish.
To the best of their abilities the pledges were kept, the tithing commitments were met and the parish community flourished.
As the plans for the new church were taking shape, the community continued to grow and more space was needed to accommodate the growing parish. So on November 1, 1966, Sunday Mass was moved to the Movie Theater in the Belmont Hills Shopping Center until a new Parish Center could be built.
In December of 1966 the building committee approved the purchase of 16 acres of rolling wooded land on King Springs Road in Smyrna and the dream was starting to take shape.
In January of 1967 Albert O. Ordway was selected as the Architect for the new Parish Center and by March of 1967 the plans for the Center were complete, approved by both the parishioners and the Archbishop and ready for competitive bidding. Carter Construction Company was selected to build the Parish Center and construction began in August of 1967.
In August of 1967 our parish was blessed with the arrival of five Sisters of Humility of Mary to help Fr. Morrow meet the many needs of the growing parish. Can you believe that on June 30, 1968, the Parish Center was complete and ready for full use by the parishioners? Just stop and think, that is only 25 months from the time the parish was established, with no money in the coffers, to when a small wooded area on King Springs Road was transformed into a beautiful and functional Parish Center. This new facility provided classrooms for religious education, meeting rooms for the growing church ministries, the parish office, a fully equipped kitchen, a kindergarten, and a large multi purpose area that served as an assembly and dining hall, a recreation area equipped with a large stage and swing-a-way basketball goals, as well as the main worship area for Sunday Mass, with a small baby crying room to accommodate the youngest of the parish. It is truly amazing what can be accomplished when people open their hearts and answer the call from God to build his church community. I see God’s guiding hand in all that was, and is to be, accomplished at St. Thomas.
Because money was also tight in 1970, the new Parish Rectory, with living and office space for our Pastor, was built by the parishioners using the same architectural design as the new Parish Center. Also in June of 1971 the parish purchased a home on King Springs Road to provide a convent for our Sisters of Humility of Mary.
By 1974 the parish had grown to 654 families. That is a 118% increase in only 8 years.
By 1981 the parish had grown to 773 families. That is another 18% increase in only 7 years. On April 8,1984, the groundbreaking celebration for the long awaited construction of the St Thomas the Apostle dedicated Worship Area was started. Just 19 months later the Worship Area was complete and on November 23, 1985, the new house of God’s family was officially dedicated. At this time the parish had 985 registered families using a main worship area that held a maximum of 600 people.
By 1988 the parish had grown to 1,267 families. That is another 64% increase in only 7 years. By 1991 the parish had grown to 1,520 families. That is another 20% increase in only 3 years. By 1994 the parish had grown to 1,740 families. That is another 15% increase in only 3 years.
In 2002 a new larger Rectory was constructed to accommodate the Pastor and the additional priests that were required to care for the people of St Thomas. The Old Rectory was soon converted into meeting rooms to help with the high demand for assembly space for the many ministries that continued to flourish in the parish. By 2006 the parish had grown again to an astonishing 5,314 families. That is a 205% increase in only 12 years.
Today our parish stands at 6,740 families.
With this huge increase of families the Lord has sent to us since we built the existing Worship Area 26 years ago, we are still using a Main Worship Area that will hold a maximum of 600 people. All the PSR classrooms are filled to capacity and meeting rooms for the many existing ministries are just not available. It is clear that we have a major challenge.
What can we do? Here are our options:
Option 1. We can try to stop all growth in the parish and reduce the number of families that call St. Thomas their home parish by turning away any new parishioners and asking about ½ of the existing parishioners to find another church to attend. Is this what Jesus would do? We don’t think so!
Option 2. We can embark on a building campaign on the existing property that would better accommodate the existing families and ministries of our parish and provide for the future families that will call St. Thomas the Apostle their home. Is this what Jesus would do? We believe so.