“I have thought of a title such as ‘Our Lady of the Assumption’ or ‘St. Mary of the Assumption,” wrote Archbishop Gerald P. O’Hara of the Savannah-Atlanta Diocese in early 1951 when asked his recommendation for a name of Atlanta’s newest Catholic parish. He continued his letter to Monsignor Joseph E. Moylan saying, “We would be honoring Our Lady through the newly declared dogma of Her Assumption.” On November 1, 1950 Pope Pius XII had solemnly declared in the document Munificentissimus Deus the following: “We pronounce, declare, and define it to be divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” In the declaration of the doctrine we are sustained in the confidence of our bodily resurrection. According to the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution of the Church (Lumen Gentium), Mary’s Assumption is, “a sign of certain hope and comfort to the Pilgrim People of God.”
Imagine meeting for Mass in a converted Army barracks in the vicinity of the future DeKalb-Peachtree Airport. That is what those early parishioners did, under the pastorate of Monsignor Joseph E. Moylan, while awaiting the construction of a church. Seven and a half acres were purchased in Oglethorpe Estates on Hearst Drive in Brookhaven. Initial construction began on a school-chapel building and a convent for the Sisters of Mercy. During the construction, Masses were celebrated in the Old Lawton Hospital, and later in the auditorium of the Jim Cherry School. The school chapel was first used by the parish in May 1952.
Our Lady of the Assumption School opened in September 1952 with 176 students enrolled in kindergarten through 5th grade. The Sisters of Mercy conducted the educational and spiritual life of the school in the spirit of its founder, Mother McAuley. Sister Mary Assumpta, R.S.M. was the Superior. Sister Mary Christine, R.S.M. was the first principal. Construction began on a temporary church in May 1957, with the understanding that in the future the building would serve as the school gymnasium. OLA parishioner Mr. Warren F. Penney, A.I.A., designed the new church. On September 8, 1957 Monsignor Moylan celebrated the first Mass on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother. Bishop Hyland of the Savannah Diocese dedicated the church on February 1, 1958.
In 1965, Archbishop John Hallinan requested that the Society of Mary (Marist Fathers and Brothers), who had been serving at Sacred Heart Parish since 1897, relinquish that parish and assume pastoral care of Our Lady of the Assumption. The Marists had already relocated Marist College from downtown Atlanta to the current location of the Marist School on Ashford-Dunwoody Road. In 1979, the parish began renovations to the sanctuary. The building never did become the school gymnasium. Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan dedicated the renovated church on December 19, 1981.
In 1989, the parish renovated the parish hall, rectory, and former convent. The plan moved the parish offices from the rectory to the former convent. The parish center contained a meditation chapel, the parish offices, parish library/conference room, and mail/work room. In 1999, the Parish Pastoral Council authorized a Building Committee to assess the future needs of the parish. Later that year the committee presented the parish with a plan for a permanent church and a new parish hall building. The Archdiocese of Atlanta gave its blessing, and the fundraising began.
A master plan was developed and presented to the DeKalb County Commission. The parish broke ground in 2003, and began construction. The new church was dedicated on November 4, 2005 by the newly assigned Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, S.L.D. In addition to the new church, the parish gained a Parish Preschool, Youth Room, and Moylan Hall.
In November of 2018 the Archbishop Gregory returned to bless the OLA School’s new edition that included a state of the art, a dedicated STREAM lab, three pre-k classrooms, two music rooms, a middle school wing, administrative offices, and a large conference room.
A Columbarium was built in the Garden of Memories outside main doors of the church to provide a sacred space that members of our parish can choose as a final resting place.
The parish Preschool expanded into the youth room in August of 2020 to accommodate the increasing demand for space in the Preschool.
In late 2020 the parish completed construction of a new, larger rectory that is able to house 5 priests! In the Society of Mary’s General Chapter Statements and Decisions of 2017 Marists were encouraged to keep “communities of a minimum size of 4/5 to allow for sufficient diversity, interaction, and continuity of community life.” This new space is used by our religious to provide an enhanced community life and deeper opportunity for prayer. This will help OLA’s priests better serve the OLA community and will greatly enhance the spiritual life of the entire parish family.
Upon completion of the new rectory, the former rectory was be renovated into a new parish office which includes a new youth room and conference room.
In March of 2020 two staff members were packing up file cabinets in the pastor's office in preparation for the staff moving into new offices. At one point one of the employees found a simple white envelope in a hanging folder that had not been looked at in at least twenty years. Written in pencil on the envelope was one simple word: “Relics.” They looked at one another wondering if the envelope might contain the answer to a long-time mystery in the parish.
In the early 2000s when the current church was being built the relics from the original church’s altar were removed. They contained no information on what saint it was! We searched for documentation. The Archdiocese was drafted to help. No one could find out what saint was in the altar at OLA.
When the new church was dedicated, the unknown saint was placed in the base of the altar directly under the cross that you see below. A relic of Marist Saint Peter Chanel, courtesy of Father Jim, was placed in the altar as well.
They just may have been holding their breath in anticipate when they opened the envelope. Inside they found a small, laminated piece of paper with Latin text. Neither is a Latin scholar but they were able to make out that OLA’s first pastor celebrated a rite at the altar and mentioned “Martyrum Aucti et Lucentis.” Could this be the answer they had been looking for all of these years?!
Father Jim enlisted the help of a fellow Marist, Father Tom Ellerman, in translating the Latin for us. It reads:
“On the 24th day of the month of October 1952, I, the Most Reverend Joseph E. Moylan, PA, rightly delegated, consecrated this altar in honor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and I have enclosed in it the relics of these martyrs Auctus and Lucens and grant by delegation or commission to each of the faithful of Christ, visiting it for one year from today, and on the anniversary of this consecration, the usual indulgence of forty whole days.”
The mystery was solved! The martyrs Auctus and Lucens are in our altar with Saint Peter Chanel. It appears that both saints are ‘pre-congregation’ saints, meaning they were named saints by their local bishops prior to the Catholic Church instituting formal canonization procedures. If the dates of canonization were ever recorded they are long lost, along with detailed information on the lives of the saints.
We have not been able to locate any information on a Martyr named Lucens or Lucentis, but we will keep looking!
It is believed that Saint Auctus lived in Amphipolis (now Kavala) in ancient Greece in the late third or early fourth century under the reign of Diocletian. Diocletian is well known for his persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire.
Legend tells us that there was a holy young woman named, Thessalonica, who was the daughter of a pagan priest named Cleon. Cleon beat Thessalonica and threw her out of the family home when he learned that she had converted to Christianity. Auctus and another man named Taurion attempted to reason with her father who then denounced them as Christians. They were tortured and
beheaded. Thessalonica was also killed. And that is the story of our Saint Auctus
Saints Auctus and Lucentis, pray for us.