What do the structures of the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and St. Micheal The Archangel say to you? The antique walk is unique and imprinted while the modern day journey is implemented and mixed in with the traditional. What does this mean? As I went through the Catholic Shrine, I discovered a very nuanced theme than the modern St Michael the Archangel. The Catholic Shrine depicts a more aged structure, a preserved antique church, bringing in an essence of modernism, but keeping its original tone. On the other side of the coin, St Micheal the Archangel has a simple yet elegant structure with a very modern day architecture. But what are we observing? Through this journey, we have seen similarities and differences in the way both churches are structured, but Overall from the history of both the Old Catholic Shrine and Modern Catholic Church, my experience of being Catholic, my experience in both churches, and the Roman Catholic Church in general has shown a profound evolution over the years due to different objectives, necessities, issues, and Vatican II that they had in the moment creating those different traditions, liturgy, rituals, structure in the built environment, and more, but even in all that change from centuries ago till now, the Catholic Church still persists the way it is meant to persist and what it stands for, and the root of its birth, all of its importance and meaning.
The History of St Michael The Archangel Catholic Church
St Michael The Archangel Catholic Church was founded as a mission in 1995. The first mass celebrated in 1996. The St Michael bought a house where they started to develop its masses, offices, and administration because of this rapid growth in community, in June 1996, the Archbishop changed how St Michael is known of being a mission into being a parish.
With time, the construction of the real church was founded in 1999 and the first mass was January 1999. When the mass was being celebrated, the statue of St Michael the Archangel was place outside where the courtyard was located to protect the area since it was still under construction. The first house was originally for group meetings, religious education, and would later be the St Vincent de Paul Food Pantry and now gives to 120 families. Due to how they had 7 masses and because of the immense growth of the community of St Michael, they had the necessity to construct and remodel the church. The first mass in the new church was held July 10, 2015. The old temple is now used as a family center.
My experience in St Michael the Archangel Catholic Church
St Michael is originally modern as it is. What does that mean? You see St Michael before and after, and it simply carries a modern theme; that St Michael wants to have a touch of an old church of before, possibly, but the church cries out modernism. On the outside I see how immense the entire church is compared to what It used to be. It was only one section and looked like a a little brick building that depicts a church.
On the inside though was an appearance that masses can be celebrated inside, but since the community of St Michael kept growing, the space was too tight, so there they thought of enlarging the whole place. So….
Now the church has that section plus the newer section where they transferred the sanctuary to the other side and the area of the brick building is now a family center.
My trip to St. Micheal was relatively short. There is a lot I see but a lot that does not have too much; but in the history it has, changes can be seen. From the old sanctuary to what it is now a family center, the St Michael Statue inside near the Sanctuary, the breathtaking design in the interior of the new Sanctuary, thatdefinitely looks very alike to The Catholic Shrine but bigger and less decorated, but an elegant modern simplistic theme. It is a complex structure to describe, and it has a lot of art depicted. It made me feel comfortable and it felt extremely spacious then how it used to be. I remember when I used to go to mass in the old church, people had to stand, or go outside the sanctuary and sit on the floor where all the crying babies were at. It is a very nice experience, and the masses here I attend mostly are weekly ones and like the Catholic Shrine, the masses are very short during the week and hold the same things, so the structure might change but they function the same. I did notice how bigger St Micheal has become compared to the Catholic Shrine. That was my experience in St. Michael, I do not have anymore words for it.
Francis Arinze once said, “The Catholic Faith never changes. But the mode and manifesting this one faith can change according to peoples, times, and places.” (Francis Arinze ~ a short quote) What does he imply by this? Exactly what he says, the Catholic Faith will always stay firm, but the way it functions, the way it is structured, its infrastructure, everything else can change depending on the circumstances. In this research we look at one of the oldest Catholic churches in the Atlanta Area, The Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and a more modern church, St Michael the Archangel Catholic Church. The churches will be demonstrating those changes that have occurred over the years not just in the internal area of the Church in its traditions, liturgy, rituals, and music, but also the structure of it due to the different objectives and necessities they have had including but not limited to: war, fire, a big part of Vatican II’s implementation, limited space issues due to growing population, and commodity.
The History of the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
The Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception used to be a plain Catholic Church in 1848 by Irish missionary Jon Barry. The first church was as it says on the history map, “A simple wooden frame structure similar to the construction of the surrounding buildings” (Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Church History Page) This would be the first Catholic Church in Atlanta and also first in North Georgia. By 1851, the Atlanta church being more of a mission than a “real” church became an official church and Father O’Neill became the pastor.
By 1861, Father O’reilley became the pastor of the Atlanta Catholic Church and its missions. He was known to be a friend to everyone including both with the union and confederates; even after an explosion that occurred from one of the shells during the Civil War which damaged the structure of the church was used as a temporary hospital where the soldiers and those who needed a safe haven could go and he would help not only spiritually, but medically, and with immense guidance. At one point as I went to the Catholic Shrine, I found out more information from a Ralph O’reilley who told me how besides this part of its history, he said Father O’reilley even talked out Sherman before he was going to burn Atlanta so that the Catholic Church and the churches surrounding the area including the Capitol, city hall, and the court house would not be burned down since it says in the Pamphlet of The Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception where, “If you burn the Catholic Church, all Catholics in the ranks of the Union Army will mutiny.” (Pamphlet of the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception)
Ralph O’reilley told me how many Irish Immigrants were populating Atlanta at the time which was the first reason why they built it and the majority were Catholics, so the Church became a stabilizer for the community because it helped the people spiritually but also in many other ways as well. Father O’reilley was honored by the Atlanta Historical Society in 1945 since he was a hero for Atlanta in saving the churches and City Hall and in the same year, the Church was redecorated and designated a Shrine. “Normally churches become shrines because a miracle and more happens like in Fatima and other ones, but this one no, it was an exception due to all its history and importance since it was a “spiritual center, and a stabilizer for the City of Atlanta” as Ralph had told me.
There was even an academy (The Immaculate Conception Academy) that was finished and a complete renovation of the Shrine in 1951 due to a campaign that happened in the community. The official year being 1954 when it was said to become a Shrine.
Now due to the destruction of the Church, instead of fixing the church, they decided to build a new church right where the old one used to lay, and Father B Duggan became the new pastor since Father O’reilley became sick and died September 6, 1972; buried in a vault in the crypt area placed below the church, now being observed by people in tours although tours do not happen very frequently anymore as to what Ralph explained to me.
On the other side of the story, Unfortunately, in 1982 there was a fire that destroyed a tremendous part of the Shrine. Even though this unfortunate event happened, they renovated and remodeled the Catholic Shrine.
The idea of Msgr. Grady and Donald Kiernan during the renovation of the Shrine was to, “Restore the original beauty of the church, while updating it where necessary to provide modern conveniences.” (Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Church History page)
The Pamphlet of the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
My experience in the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
As I let my eyes rest on The Catholic Shrine of The Immaculate Conception, I could immediately capture how this beautiful Shrine illuminated its Gothic medieval themed exterior, constructed with brick, stone, and stained glass on the outside and interior windows of the Shrine, which gave a mixture of modern yet antique feel in general. But, there are two parts of the Shrine, one where there is an area where the offices of the shrine are in which you have to pass through some brick steps and ring a type of doorbell; from there, you can directly observe the originality of the church just through the design of the door and gate all together. As the man in charge opens the door, in this case Ralph O’reilley, he started to guide me down where the crypt was located with the bodies of Father O’reilley, another father and deacon, but I do not remember their names; he then started talking about the historic highlights about the whole church. I felt extremely horrified about the crypt, but I was able to take pictures of that part and the photos, and I was also able to get valuable information.
As you see what I have seen so far that the Shrine has gone through a lot of change in itsstructure, and some of its liturgy over the years for different reasons. The beauty of this place impacted me when I came inside, and even the nature of this church came out to me as such a marked theme of being ancient and Gothic with a touch of medieval but modern as well. The only thing I know that has not changed is the way a Catholic Church is supposed to function, and somepieces of art of the Stations of the Cross have been restored and Ralph also told me about the statue of The Virgin Mary and Jesus that has been restored as well.
Having visited The Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception always gave me a feeling of peace, like I was in a safe haven and I felt that essence like I was in a very historic church. I only needed to see the outsidedoors and I immediately thought it was ancient. I also thought it was a beautiful masterpiece the whole church, maybe not so much on the outside, but the inside is marvelous.
I was able to go to Mass here which was at 12:10 during the week. Only few people went, and I went with my mother. The priest was an old man who had a very calm voice. The homily he have was very short, but that is expected during a weekly mass. The only thing that surprised me was how the Priest sat on the benches just like us, in the way I depicted was to have respect for the area of the altar. Overall I had a great experience in The Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
What is it about the Catholic Church we do not know about? Do we understand its meanings and tradition and transformations? In this Built Environment Analysis I will be comparing and Contrasting; what traditions and transformations one of the oldest 19th century catholic churches in the Atlanta Area and a more modern catholic church in a Suburban area contain. I will also be analyzing why those traditions and transformations are important to us and what it really means, since many do not know what is embedded or misunderstand different concepts of the Catholic Church.