More History

Learn more about the history of our parish

… as it was in the beginning …

As one reviews the story of the early years we note how graciously the Smyrna community at large welcomed our efforts to form a Catholic presence. The ecumenical attitude we were encouraged to exercise was fostered by the generous display of friendship from the established Christian community. Various Christian churches provided use of facilities for liturgies and religious instructions. A local high school was made available for Sunday services as well as Belmont Hills Theater.
Whether our Pastor, Father Richard Morrow, resided in an apartment, rented house or mobile home, he found an area to provide the Lord’s Supper and liturgy for his flock. As King David carried the Ark of the Covenant to different locations, so did Father as he offered daily Mass in our Sister’s loaned residence, in homes of families, and during Lent at the Dobbins A.F.B. Officer’s Club. It was the fact of this divergence that motivated unity, support and an appreciation of one another in the forming parish.
The parishioners were inspired further by the character, vitality, dedication, and administrative talent of the well-loved first Pastor. His was a noble feat, and throughout his years of service he displayed hope, perseverance and a sense of humor. By December, 1967, faced with the reality and the necessity of providing for his flock, he, with artful, biblical, factual and humerous persuasions sought the financial support of those to be served, by the introduction of tithing. Over time we have incurred additional debt; but from much sacrificial tithing – giving suffused with love, especially love of Christ – we have an edifice we proudly call Saint Thomas the Apostle Church and Parish Center.
Founded in June 1966, the membership of the unnamed parish in Smyrna numbered about 300 households at the time we divided the “mother church” of Saint Joseph in Marietta. Throughout that summer, seminarians, several now priests of the Archdiocese, travelled within our delineated borders and took a census of area Catholics. The enlarging family benefitted from the many inspired and dedicated men and women who worked on committees, councils and in groups to create a community in action. Almost twenty of these were in existence, promoting good will and support within our own community and Smyrna community at large.
We needed a name for our home in Christ. From a proffered list, votes were solicited from the parishioners. As God illuminates all things, Saint Thomas the Apostle became the spiritual aegis, with the approval of the Archdiocese.
From the beginning of the century a small mission church of Saint Joseph on Church Street in Marietta served Catholics in Cobb County. In 1957, a school and temporary church of Saint Joseph was dedicated at its present site on Lacy Street. North Georgia became a Diocese in June, 1956, and an Archdiocese in February, 1962. Today, Saint Joseph’s has over 1800 households, Saint Thomas approximately 1500 and the Catholic presence in Cobb County alone is very impressive. The increase is due to several factors, civil and social, but the importance and preservation of the Catholic presence is the result of apostolic ferver, administrative loans emanating from the Archdiocese, leadership of the clergy and generosity of the faithful.
Eventually we were blest by the advent of the Sisters of Humility of Mary – and how welcome they were – who established vital religious education programs for every person: be they kindergarten, adolescent, adult or convert. These knowledgeable and energetic women had a calendar of activities that included home visits, the formation of discussion and study groups, and visits to those ill and in the hospital. The legacy of their untiring efforts has born much fruit and the benefits of their work and example are evidenced by their impact on our parish even today.
Initially served by diocesan clergy and seminarians, and with generous assistance from the Marist Fathers of Saint Joseph’s, we have been favored with the Missionaries of La Salette in our parish since June 3, 1977. Each one celebrated his sacramental ministerial role, each pastoral staff member who gave service for Christ, each employee and parishioner who was the provenience of His house is recalled and remembered, for each made a laudable contribution to our Silver Jubilee Celebrations.
Lest we forget, there was the fun. Dances, picnics, breakfasts, holiday and church anniversary celebrations were an important part of the knowing and enjoying one another. Always a matter of hard work for the men and women, their efforts were appreciated and the comraderie made these times memorable for everyone.
Memory alone is a faulty historian. Were it not for parish secretaries who wove the thoughts and words of Pastors into a tapestry of events that forms our history, we would miss much that has made our parish distinctive.
“Here we take the wine and the water:
Here we take the bread of new birth.”
Marty Haugen
Initial plans called for the construction of a four-building complex: a temporary worship facility, a convent, a rectory and, eventually, a church on the 16 acres of acquired land. Through the devoted efforts of the parish Building Committee and with the approval of the Archbishop and parishioners, the parish worship and utilitarian facility was approved for construction. It was in readiness by June 8, 1968, when the first Mass was celebrated and was dedicated on November 17, 1968.
The Parish Center became the focal point of all parish activities and was utilized most productively. The building of Stone Mountain granite is a split-level of Dutch Colonial design. Interiorally well-planned, it includes a full stage, huge kitchen, dining area, a nursery, water closets and storage rooms on the lower level. The upper level was and is the center of educational and administrative activities, and now includes the library.
After having lived hither and yon in variious locations, a residence for the pastor was essential: a proper rectory. The men of the parish – some professional, all talented and dedicated – built the rectory. The result of their labors is visible today in a sound and comfortable house whose exterior is granite, matching the Parish Center. These men also built many of the accouterments in the initial worship area and our women artisans created liturgical banners which heightened awareness of ecclesiastical seasons.
And then, on April 8, 1984, a joyful noise was heard before the Lord. The Rite of Groundbreaking was held. As the land was opened and blest, symbols signifying the work of the religious communities involved in pastoral care were placed in the earth. These included a stone taken from the holy mountain in La Salette, France, where the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette were founded, a La Salette crucifix and a medal of the order of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary. On November 23, 1985, our house of God’s family was dedicated.
“Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be:
Mingle praises, prayer and song
Singing to the Trinity.”
Gerald Manley Hopkins

…is now and ever shall be…

The words of the poet convey the idea of what continues to happen within our parish as we celebrate His gifts. It is no happenstance that we crowd toward the table of the Redeemed Christ to receive the Gift of Life. The priests, deacons, seminarians, sisters and laity have ever sponsored and guided our activities; instructed young and adult in religion; fostered innovations in liturgical worship; pioneered the role of women in ministries; shared the burden of administration with lay councils; and were ever present to reconcile the heart, counsel the troubled and harmonize the spirit. And so we gather.
In this dynamic world as we journey to our destination – that Kingdom of God – we ponder the perseverance of those in our glorious past and renew with hope our spiritual present. Our reunions on earth are but harbingers of eventual reunions in God’s Holy Territory.
All Hail!!! It’s our Silver Jubilee!
By Nancy Nolan