A new leadership body was formed in February 2023 to assist our pastor in casting the vision of where we believe the Holy Spirit to be leading our parish community. This representative body is comprised of leaders from some of Transfiguration’s thriving ministries: Women in Faith, Mustard Seed (young families), Knights of Columbus, Spanish ministries, Young Adults, Youth Ministry, Faith Formation, Finance Council. Other ministries are represented by a member of the Ministry Resource Team. Please pray that they listen to the Lord’s guidance as we ask God to bring success to the work of our hands.

Members of the team:

Tom O’Neill

What is it that you bring to the Pastor’s Lay Advisory Team?
I was initially invited to an introductory meeting of the PLAT team based on my role as chairman of the Transfiguration Finance Council. After listening to Fr. Eric speak about the need for spiritual growth, new energy and ideas, positive change, and evangelization in our parish, I’m not sure how my skills and experience in finance and accounting relate to the mission of PLAT.  However, in the PLAT meetings that I have attended there have been discussions on obtaining resources, expanding ministries and parish activities so having insight into the financial resources of the parish does provide beneficial perspective. What are your gifts – is there something unique that you bring to the table? Other than professional skills, the primary gift that I can bring to the table is life experience. My wife and I have raised 4 children to adults and are currently raising our 17 year- old nephew. We been practicing Catholics for our adult lives and members of Transfiguration parish for over 30 years.  So we’ve seen and done a lot of things over this time.  Hopefully, I can draw from these experiences in contributing ideas and actions for the new challenges we will be facing in our parish community.

Describe what it’s like for you to live as a friend of Jesus.I don’t consciously think of Jesus as a “friend” though I when I think about the attributes that characterize a friend, he represents the “ultimate” friend. I’ve always thought of Jesus as my Lord and protector because I know he is all knowing and powerful as part of the Holy Trinity of God and that he completely understands the human experience. Through my life walk, I have always felt a sense of dependency on Jesus to carry me through whatever challenges I may face couple with a sense of security that he is always there for me.

What are you doing to remain close to God?My interactions with God are primarily through prayer, parish worship, and parish ministries. The levels have varied over the years based on life circumstances. My primary and most consistent communication to God is through prayer, both structured and free form. Though community worship and participation and support of gospel like activities reinforce my relationship with God, the day-today times when I communicate directly with God are what I feel are the most important to my relationship with him.

Who is someone that has had a profound effect on you and your choice to live your Catholic faith as a disciple? I have a friend who I met as a co-worker in 1986. His name is Mark Pekelnicky. Mark resides in Marietta with his wife and 2 children who are now adults. They are also parishioners of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Marietta. During the 36 plus years I have know Mark, he has epitomized a man of high character and integrity. He is honest, faithful, ethical, and trustworthy. His behavior has also stood the test of time. Mark is also very humble. He and his wife Pat have contributed their time and talent to many charitable activities throughout the years at St. Ann’s Church and in the world at large. Yet Mark never seeks personal recognition or attention. I’ve had several professional mentors and influential family members in my life and have benefitted from their instruction, guidance, and leadership. But the only person that I’ve met who inspired me to strive to be a better person to others is Mark Pekelnicky. I am grateful to God for having our lives intersect.

How would God describe you if we were interviewing him about the friendship the two of you have?I think God would say that he is patiently nurturing the work in progress friendship we have. God knows my thoughts as well as all my sins throughout my lifetime. He also knows that I am afraid of fully committing myself to him for fear of not being able to accept or handle what he may ask of me.

When it comes to God or the Church, what is something that you’d like everyone to know.When it comes to God, I’d like everyone to know that I believe that he created heaven and earth, all living things in the universe, and mankind in his image. Our existence in the world and time here on earth is inexplicably connected to God’s plan for each of us. I’m not sure about my position on the Church and what I want others to know about it. I believe the apostles that founded the Christian Church were inspired by God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and they were successful in bringing the gospel and everlasting salvation to millions of people. As to the Roman Catholic Church, history shows that there have been far too many instances where the church leaders were susceptible to sin and Satan’s power over mankind’s weaknesses. Though I perceive Pope Francis to be a holy man of high integrity, there are still too many scandals in the Roman Catholic Church today for me to want to extol its virtues. At present, I am focusing my attention on Transfiguration Parish and the goods works that I hope our congregation can achieve.

Who is a character of the bible or a saint that you really identify with and why? I have always admired Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob.  Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers who were jealous of him due to his father’s favor toward him. In Egypt, Joseph was victimized by lies and treachery again when he refused the advances of his employer’s wife.  Joseph continually rose above his adverse circumstances due to his faith in the Lord and the Lord’s blessings upon him. Eventually, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to purchase grain to survive the famine in their homeland. Joseph had risen to a position of power second only to Pharaoh. He could have sought revenge upon his brothers with severe punishment including death. Instead, Joseph forgave them stating that though they might have intended him harm, the Lord intended good to come from their actions. Joseph is an outstanding role model. He used the gifts that God gave him wisely. He also exhibited mercy and compassion when he could have exacted revenge in the name of justice by the standards of the world. If more us followed Joseph’s morality and behavior standards, the world would experience much greater harmony, peace, and overall happiness.

Becky Kile

What is it like for you to live as a friend of Jesus?  It is about putting in the time; really taking the time to make my friendship with Jesus a priority. Everyday, it seems like our lives can get in the way: all of these distractions can creep up but, at the end of the day, it’s us and God and being a friend to Jesus is about spending time with him. At this stage in my life, I am trying to carve out time for family and for friends, but it is so important to prioritize God into the mix. Just commit, to say, “My heart’s open… I’m ready to be faithful… I’m ready to be a friend to you, Jesus.”

What are you doing to remain close to God?  I have a running conversation with Him all throughout the day, every day. It starts off when I wake up in the morning as I acknowledge his presence and say, “thank you… I’m here. Thank you for everything you have given me… thanks for another day.” All the way until I feel like I fall asleep on him: I’m just talking with him and that’s my prayer. It could be something like, “Gosh, that was so hard! Why? Why did you let me go through that? And what gifts did you give me to get through it? Oh… okay, now I see. Give me a little grace here… thank you!” I try to stay close to God through this constant running conversation that we maintain together each day. That helps me remain close. That awareness that He is my friend… He is here with me.

What is it that you bring to the Pastor’s Lay Advisory Team (who do you represent? What are your gifts? Is there something unique that you bring to the table?)  I represent our Young Adults. There are a lot of us who are ready to see movement and I would like to engage even more young people in the mission of Transfiguration. I am excited to help craft the vision, to see where we are heading, and to help drive us forward toward that. I add what I can to help provide clarity and to sift through and explore all available options. I believe we have to always try. We may not know where we are going, but God does. I think my gift is a listening ear, an open heart, a willingness to try anything to reach our goals as a parish, which for me, is a home.

Who is someone that has had a profound effect on you and your choice to live your Catholic faith as a disciple?  My parents continue to really inspire me. They raised us Catholic and without them, I don’t know where I would be. They provided the sacraments for us, got us through PREP and ChrisTeen, and helped inspire us to be involved. They taught us that Church was a lot more than just coming on Sundays. One of the biggest ways they had a profound effect on me was them always highlighting the value of family. I guess our family would be considered unusual because most nights, we sit down and have dinner together as a family. Of course, that has gotten a bit harder with all of us grown and moved out of the house, but we still get together as much as we can and place a huge value on family including trying to turn TV’s off and phones are down. They are why I am here and actively live my Catholic faith. Now, I am working on my own adult involvement. It is important for my husband, Austin and me to be involved and wanting to grow more in this community of Transfiguration together and separately. Giving our lives to God is the way that we support one another as a couple. I believe that God gives us the energy that we spend here to renew us and to keep us from feeling burned out, even with everything that we try to do. It just makes sense to us. We have created it our home and we want to continue that no matter what.

How would God describe you if we were interviewing Him about the friendship that the two of you have?  When I think about where I’ve come from to right now, I think God would say, “we are doing good.” I think before, when I was in college, not going to church much, and not being involved, God was probably struggling with me, clearly I was struggling with Him too. Now, He would probably say, “we could talk more, we could do some more things together, but you’re doing good for where you’re at.” I feel a lot of peace in being able to say that I have a good, authentic relationship with God.

When it comes to God or the Church, what is something that you’d like everyone to know?  If I could say one thing to our parishioners it would be, “it is time to try!” Maybe some of us have been at it for a long time and maybe it is new to some of us to get involved. Maybe there are young adults here who have not stepped up yet, but I think it is time for us to band together. So much can be accomplished when we have an open heart. Let’s all come together to move this church and these mountains that are in front of us: the more that we can do it together, the better off we will be.

Who is a character in the bible or a saint that you really identify with and why?  Because there are so many, it’s really hard for me to just pick one. I guess I would go with Mary because in everything she did, she said, “okay. I’m with you. Lead me down this path and I will walk with you. Wherever you lead me, I will be right there with you.” This has a lot of meaning for me in my life. Just to walk hand in hand with Him. And at the end of the day, that is the only thing that really matters.

Chris Eells, Sr.

What is it like for you to live as a friend of Jesus?  It is work… hard work! Jesus suffered in pain and he gave up his life for us so that we wouldn’t have suffer all that he did.  But what he does ask us is to lay down our agenda and set aside our pride to serve someone else who is in need.  It’s the old time, talent, and treasure thing:  that’s what it means for me to live my friendship with Jesus which helps me to become like him.  Taking that seriously and living it fully is hard work!

What are you doing to remain close to God?  I am a husband.  I am a father. I am a grandfather. It’s important for me that someday, when I pass, I hope that my wife can set her hand on my casket and say to herself, “Chris, you were a good man.  We did it.  We did it together.”  I use the Catholic Church and its teachings as a platform for me to accomplish that.  I want to go to church with my wife.  I wanted my children to see us in church together every Sunday, every holy day. I wanted them to see me serving as a Eucharistic minister.  I wanted them to see my volunteering.  I want my grandchildren to see the ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday because I want them to ask, “Hey, what’s that all about?”  I think the Church helps me to be the best husband, father, and grandfather that I can be.  That’s been important to me and in doing that… I do stay closer to God because I’m thinking about it all of the time.

What is it that you bring to the Pastor’s Lay Advisory Team (who do you represent? What are your gifts? Is there something unique that you bring to the table?)  I represent the Knights of Columbus.  I really don’t see myself as having any special gifts apart from hundreds of hours of public speaking from my career so that if we ever needed someone to meet folks or speak to crowds of people at Masses on Sunday, I’m not afraid to do that.  I have an ability to speak openly to people and communicate… That might be a gift that I bring. But if I’m honest, I see myself more as a support guy. In my career I worked hard climbing the corporate ladder, I became a senior vice president, but I always looked at myself as a support guy. I was never going to be the president or CEO for the company… they are visionaries.  After they communicated the vision to me, it was my job to get it done. That’s what I do best.

Who is someone that has had a profound effect on you and your choice to live your Catholic faith as a disciple?  The person who has had the deepest impact in my faith life has been my wife.  I was not raised going to church. My parents saw to it that I was baptized in the Methodist church but that was the only time we went to church that I can recall. I got out of college and got a job.  A year later I met my wife at a business event.  We started dating, dated for 3 years, got engaged for 1 year, and have been married for 40 years.  She is a devout Catholic and her faith has always important to her.  I wanted to be with her so it became important to me.  I started going to church with her. Sitting next to her one day, she took my hand and squeezed it, and gave me a nod of her head and that was all I needed.  I got transferred to this area for work and my wife picked out this church to attend.  I started coming with her and in a year or so, I got involved in OCI (order of Christian Initiation). My wife made it clear that she loved me just as I am and that if I was going to become Catholic, I needed to do so for me and not for her.  But I realized just how important it was for me to profess the same faith with her. My wife is someone who always tries to do and say the right thing.  I often put my foot in my mouth. She has had a deep impact on our children who have grown up to become like her: people who are able to say and do the right thing and that’s all because of her.  So she is my inspiration to be active in the church.

How would God describe you if we were interviewing Him about the friendship that the two of you have?  I would say that I don’t have a friendship with God. And He would shake his head and say, “don’t listen to him!  He’s doing fine.  He strives to live his life in my image.  He prays in my name. He works hard to give of his time, talent, and treasure.  We have a good relationship.  But I’m really not the type that is completely active:  I’m not a small faith group guy, I’m not a retreat going kind of guy though I’ve done that when I was an OCI sponsor.  But I’m not really comfortable in that setting.  But I think God would say, “don’t be so hard on yourself.  You’re doing what I ask.”

When it comes to God or the Church, what is something that you’d like everyone to know?  I was once asked to give the stewardship talk at several Masses to let people know how important it is to give from your time and your talent and your treasure.  And my hope for the members of this church would be that everyone would know that there’s no such thing as failure when it comes to self-giving. Of course there’s been years when I’ve been able to give many more hours of my time and years when I haven’t been in a position to give as much money.  But I’ve always tried to do my best and be a person who gives of himself.  I’d like everyone to know what a difference it makes when you live in this way.

Who is a character in the bible or a saint that you really identify with and why?  For me, that’s the prophet Elijah.  I have a grandson who just turned five last week. He and I share the same birthday, May 16th.  And I get a chance to spend a lot of time with him which just excites me to no end.  His name is Elijah.  When I was introduced to him I was inspired to do a little research into the Old Testament to find out more about his namesake.  The prophet Elijah accomplished many miracles at God’s direction.  He wasn’t perfect.  He had ups and downs.  But he was a good, loyal servant and God stayed with him.

Beth Velji

What are you doing to remain close to God?

I’m a member of Women in Faith, a women’s bible study that meets on Friday mornings.  Each semester we have several different book studies to choose from and this past Spring I did a Walking With Purpose book called “Fearless and Free” which is focused on finding your identity in Christ.  There was a real effort to show us how our true identity is as a child of God.  It was really eye-opening going through the book of Ephesians, reading the Bible verses and then reading through commentary and asking questions to help us relate to the scriptures.  The workbook had very personal questions that really got us thinking.  That was really my first time ever to do an in-depth Bible study and it really helped bring to light all of these truths about me as an individual and about how we are all children of God. I think it had a deep impact on my relationship with God, solidifying what I believe, healing some wounds, removing some roadblocks that I had put in place to keep God at bay.  During our sessions I was able to work through some things and take some of those defenses down to let God in a little more.

What is it that you bring to the Pastor’s Lay Advisory Team (who do you represent? What are your gifts?  Is there something unique that you bring to the table?)

I guess I’m a classic millennial. Our generation is raising the children of the next generation.  It seems like so much of what happens at church is dictated by Baby Boomers, and it seems like what works for them doesn’t always work for me, for my kids or for my family.  So I think I can bring ideas about what will work better for people at my stage of life whether that has to do with something going on in the Mass or something that’s faith formation related or a social activity. I’m glad to represent a large population of our church and maybe be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.  Being a young parent and having young kids is one perspective.  Plus I grew up in this parish. I wasn’t baptized here but I’ve been here since I was five years old. I received all the other sacraments here and so I think that brings a unique perspective.

Who is someone who has had a profound effect on you and your choice to live your Catholic faith as a disciple?

The first person I think of is my mom.  But having said that, really both of my parents have been  good examples of how to live the Catholic faith in an active way.  You’ve probably heard the statistic about people who have grown up with a dad who is an active member of the Church tend to stay as adults and continue to practice their Catholic faith. This made a big difference to me, just seeing both my parents going to church and bringing us to church but not only that but being involved in extracurricular activities.  I went to a private Christian School for middle school where there was only me and one other girl in my grade who were Catholic.  It was there I think that I really learned how to live on fire for God.  We had Chapel every Wednesday where we had a time of praise and worship and then we’d have a speaker.  That was before I got into going on retreats in high school or mission trips where there would be praise and worship and an emphasis on community time.  I was around people who were really on fire for Christ and that made a big difference in helping me feel proud to be Christian.  But it also somehow made me more thankful for my Catholic faith, just being around people who were not Catholic.  Yes, it inspired me to live my faith in an active way but it also showed me what was unique and beautiful about the Catholic Church and what it has to offer that isn’t found in other denominations.  The tradition, history and the depth of Catholicism seemed to solidify something in me.

How would God describe you if we were interviewing Him about the friendship that the two of you have?

God knows me like the daughter I am and sees me as a follower of Jesus Christ, his Son.  God knows the hard work I’ve tried to do to remove the roadblocks that I had put up, like a protective barrier wall.  Over the past year, maybe six months even, I’ve intentionally begun to dismantle it because I want to become truly vulnerable. I want to really know God and let God know and love me. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve felt God helping me take the initial steps to get closer and become the person that He has created me to be.

Jaiah Scott

What is it like for you to live as a friend of Jesus?

I just became Catholic last Easter.  I didn’t want to convert for another person like someone I planned to marry.  I wanted to do it for God.  My parents have been happily married for 43 years and I am not married but I want to be a good man who does what I can to make life better for other people.  I just need to put God first in my life.

What are you doing to remain close to God?

I have been trying to be more intentional in terms of taking the time to pray every morning.  In my own little way, make it a big deal.  It’s on my calendar at 7:30 in the morning to get up and pray.  I use the Hallow app and listen to the daily readings, and Fr. Mike’s short homily that they post every day. That’s my morning meditation which helps me to think through my day and getting my head around things that I may not be looking forward to but have to soldier through and mentally prepare myself for what things I need to get done.  It is also important for me to go through my day asking, “what would Jesus do?”  I am also listening to Fr. Mike’s Catechism in a Year podcast.

What is it that you bring to the Pastor’s Lay Advisory Team (who do you represent? What are your gifts?  Is there something unique that you bring to the table?)

I feel like I’m here to represent everybody.  I see myself as a man of the people or at least I want to be that.  I believe that I need to first be a man of God and then a man of the people who I am here to serve.  I don’t represent just myself or my family or my loved ones which has come to include the people of this parish (those who I know and don’t know).  I became a member of the Knights of Columbus in December and so that’s a new sense of fraternity for me.  I was really moved by the story of Blessed Fr. McGivney.  As a kid I would read history books just to get a sense of history. For a black man, the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was a rough time:  you couldn’t find a job, even though you weren’t enslaved, you didn’t have the same chances in life.  Everyone had to take what they could find and often dad would just not come home leaving mom to raise a bunch of kids.  Having gone to an episcopal high school I never heard of someone like Fr. McGivney who dedicated his life to raising people up, taking care of families who didn’t have a provider. His example had a profound effect on me.  I guess what is unique about me is that I am at a stage in my life where I want to leave childish things behind and embrace manhood and the Knights are a great group of guys with which to do that.

Who is someone that has had a profound effect on you and your choice to live your Catholic faith as a disciple?

There are two people who have had a profound effect on me.  One is a close friend who is a few years older than me: a guy I worked with at Georgia Power who took me under his wing. I’m not sure why I connected with him or he with me but he became a real constant in my life and he happened to be Catholic. He and his wife are raising their two girls in the faith.  I always admired him and wanted to have in my own life what he seemed to have.  Then came my best friend’s wedding that took place here in Atlanta at the Cathedral of Christ the King.  I was completely moved by the whole experience:  crying like a baby because it was so freaking beautiful.  I knew this friend well and how he had overcome so many obstacles.  I want for the theme of my own life to be about faith, steadfastness, building solid relationships, and seeking God through the beauty, ritual, and meaning of Catholicism.  All of it drew me to OCI because I was coming here, paying attention to the homily, and a special shout out to Fr. Eric who made me laugh and think at the same time.

How would God describe you if we were interviewing Him about the friendship that the two of you have?

I would hope that God would say something about how aware He is that I am in this current stage of my life and that my being steadfast in walking this path is getting me closer to who I really am and who I was made to become.  It’s a day by day thing.  One day may not make the difference that will get me to heaven, but I really believe that what I do each day matters in the end.  So I stay engaged in the struggle and keep moving forward.  It’s a journey.


Describe what it’s like for you to live as a friend of Jesus

Being a friend of Jesus is ultimately what makes life worth living.  For me, having a friendship with Jesus is living my life to its fullest, existing as God created me to exist.  And all these  little signs pop up that remind me that Jesus is with me; that he is present.  No matter what comes my way, I believe that He’s right here.  That gives me a lot of stability and security and I feel like being close to Jesus is living fully.

What are you doing to stay close to God?

The two things that keep me close to God and keep our relationship moving forward is prayer and reading God’s word.  As long as I take time out of my day to do those two things, I can feel God tugging at me spiritually. That’s like my rest, that’s my refresher, to take 30 minutes or an hour out of my day, to be alone with God in prayer and in studying his Word because that never fails to refresh me and  bring me new life.

I think it’s very healthy to pray all the time throughout the day.  I know that some people pray first thing  in the morning or last thing at night.  But for me, I need to pray all throughout the day.  Every time I start a new activity, I pray, “Jesus do this with me.”  I really feel like that’s me inviting him in and asking him to be united with me.

What is it that you bring to the pastors lay advisory team? 

I recognize that I am in a very different stage of life than everybody else on the PLAT team.  I think most members of the team are married; certainly most of them are a lot older than me. So just being younger and still a student, I think that gives me a different perspective which might help us come up with different solutions to some of the problems we need to discuss.

Who has had a profound effect on you and on your choice to live your Catholic faith?

The first person that comes to mind is my mom.  For most of my life, she was the one that was dragging me to church.  She offered a constant and persistent direction and discipline to me which helped me become the person I am now.  The only reason that I am where I am right now spiritually is because of her persistence and for watching how she lives her life.  She’s not really the type of person that would stand up and talk about her faith but sure lives it out.  Then there’s also my grandmother: my mom’s mother, who for most of my life, she has been a very spiritual woman.  She has provided me spiritual guidance again and again. A couple of years ago, I really wasn’t able to understand what I was looking for, but through all of that, her wisdom and her prayers for me have been powerful, so much so that I can feel those prayers washing over me sometimes.  She is a person I can call for spiritual advice anytime that I need it and I have several times.

How would God describe you if we were interviewing him about the friendship between the two of you?

I fear that God would tell you that I’m not very loyal sometimes. I feel like I turned my back on him a lot and I’m not proud of that at all but that is part of our relationship.  But then there are the times when I feel really close to God, and other times when I feel like I’ve messed everything up and distanced myself from God.  Other times I feel like God was trying to teach me something that I would have missed otherwise.  At the end of the day, there’s so much love between us.  Over these past couple of years my actual love for God has grown  exponentially because I didn’t used to know how much love I had for God.  I would say my prayers and go to church and all that, but I never had a real dynamic relationship with God.  It was kind of just me talking to God and asking him to work to soften my heart.  I’ve asked him to fill me with his love and He really has.

What is something that you would like everyone to know about God or about the Church?

A relationship with God can be dynamic and fluid and active.  For most of my life, I did not realize that and I feel like I missed out on so much.  But now I want everyone to know what this faith can mean to them because of how much it means to me.

Who is a character in the bible or a saint that you identify with and why?

I did some research for my Confirmation patron saint and learned the story of St. Marcellinus.  He was a priest in the 4th century during the time that the Roman Empire officially changed their stance on Christianity from neutral to hostile.  So as they were persecuting Christians, Marcellinus ended up in the same jail with Saint Peter the Exorcist and so they’re often put together.  But St. Marcellinus really spoke to me because while in jail, suffering immense persecution from the Romans, he managed to convert several of his fellow prisoners and even his jailer.  And when he was executed, he managed to convert even some of the Roman soldiers to Christianity.  Those Roman soldiers who were present at his execution later  revealed the location of where St. Peter the Exorcist and St. Marcellinus were executed because of how moved they were about how courageous and loving the two martyrs were in the face of death. They wouldn’t refute the faith.  Their fierce desire to spread the Gospel is something that got my attention and was an inspiration to me to be more bold in sharing my faith.

Michelle Colasurdo-Weeks

I am so thankful for so many people in my life modeling what it means to live a life full of faith and discipleship.  Both of my grandparents lived lives of discipleship rooted in prayer and service to both the church and the community at large. My parents carry on this tradition of discipleship.  Additionally, my choice to live my life rooted in discipleship has been profoundly influenced by Joyce Guris, Transfiguration’s Director of Faith Formation.  Over the past 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to witness her ability to foster the gifts of the Holy Spirit found in so many people in the community, myself included.  Additionally, she has a passion for the cultivation of the Catholic faith among not just the youth in our parish, but the parish as a whole.  Her desire to understand the context in which the current church exists and how we as a parish can best navigate and adapt to better suit the development of faith drives her vision for the Family Faith Formation program.  But, it is her deep faith life and relationship with God that inspires me and my faith life.  Everything she does is rooted in Jesus and His message of faith, hope, and love. I aspire to also root my life in such a way.

Bill Garrity

Describe what it’s like for you to live as a friend of Jesus

Over and over and over again there have been signs that God was with me. And you’d have to be pretty dense not to see them. And yes, I can be pretty dense at times. We all come to those flat lines when it’s our personal valley, and it’s our faith that helps bring us back and keep us going. That is one of the things I’ve always found at Transfiguration. No matter where I’m at, if I need to get back out of that valley, Transfiguration has been a wonderful place to do that. Just through encounters with people you meet: people I don’t know… people I’ve known for a long time…and people I find myself working together with on groups and committees. It’s fascinating for me to realize that God and I have always been tight even when it was more so Him understanding we were tight and me not! it’s also interesting for me as to how my awareness of God is always floating through all three persons in the trinity. For example, I know that it was the Holy Spirit who kicked my butt and let me know when it was time to leave Philadelphia and move to Georgia. When we first came South and found this church, we fell in love with it. It has always been so lively here at Transfiguration and the atmosphere of this parish just drew us in.

What are you doing to stay close to God?

I have the best job in the whole parish with the OCI because I continually get to hear fresh stories of why people are feeling compelled to join the Catholic Church. No matter where I’m at spiritually, you can’t help but be moved by people who are on a journey like that, looking for a place to call home. That process and my interaction with all these people who are involved in taking these first steps is really completely compelling and that interaction and the stories of how all of these other people have encountered God and how it moved them to come to this church, it just keeps me in touch with what my faith means to me. It’s very moving!

What is it that you bring to the Pastors Lay Advisory Team?

No pastor can lead a place this large all by themselves even with two or three assistant priests. We, as lay people, have to be aware of that and have to be willing to participate in making this place the home we all need for it to be. No one person can have expertise in all of the areas that make up such an enormous parish. My membership in multiple groups over the years and what I’m involved with at Transfiguration currently, puts me in kind of a unique position. From all of the ways I’ve served the parish over the years including as OCI Director, when things pop up I have a perspective that may be helpful in knowing what steps we might choose to take next. We all have different gifts to share that help to get everything done.

Who has had a profound effect on you and on your choice to live your Catholic faith?

My grandmother was Irish Catholic with a solid Irish brogue. I know she was saying rosaries for me all the time. I have no idea why we were so close but she was important to me. Then when I got to college I became close to the Vicar of the Jesuits which meant that the priests who taught me (in college): well, I was buddies with their boss. He was just a phenomenal guy and at one point, I was actually getting paid to go to Mass because I was running the building at the time. There was a real sense of holiness about Fr. Eugene McCreesh that made me want to understand better what was actually going on. He was always getting me involved in serving and of course, I always said “yes”.  I would get invited to breakfast after Mass and as to be expected some of the teachers were there so we’d get into theology and philosophy discussions. It was fascinating to me and opened up a different dimension than I would have been exposed to as a student. Monsignor Pat was another one. Almost 30 years ago, one of the deacons had gotten me involved in the RCIA. I had to be like the 30th choice, but it turns out, it became a calling. Monsignor saw that and we became friends. Once after going out for supper with him, I had to drive him over to the home of a parishioner who was dying. Some people who are dying are just waiting for a priest and I got to witness that very thing. The power of faith! It’s a completely different experience of the Church and of God and of the power of the Spirit and how God uses people to accomplish His will. You’d have to have the hardest stone of a heart not to be moved by that.

How would God describe you if we were interviewing him about the friendship between the two of you?

God might wonder about me, “How could he be that narrow? How could he be that dumb?”  When I teach morality, I always say, “Imagine judgement… God saying, “So Bill, what were you thinking when you did this? Or that?”  If you have any sort of relationship with God, obviously there’s awe and respect. But every now and then there’s a conversation that goes on. I think God sometimes says to us, “Why didn’t you ask? Why didn’t you look for help?” My relationship with God is like a conversation sometimes. It’s solid but only because God is always interested and is there and when I hit a brick wall, he’s there to say, “Hey, go the other way, use the door over there.”

What is something that you would like everyone to know about God or about the Church?

I want everyone to know that Christ is really here. I want them to know that we believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist: that’s something that everybody should know and when people finally realize it, it becomes an experiential thing. It’s not what you know in your mind, it’s what goes on in your heart that’s most important. Being able to experience Christ’s presence in the Mass is a profound experience but you have to be open to it. I think the Eucharist is such a beautiful gift and it’s my favorite part of the week.

Who is a character in the Bible or a saint that you identify with and why?

I really identify with Augustine. St. Augustine was a hellraiser and found God later on in his life. He was kind of wild guy early on who became a great saint, so much so that people centuries later are still paying attention to what he said. Another person is St. Peter because he was such a mess throughout the Gspels and yet he was in charge of building the Church which is still going strong 2000 plus years later. So whenever I wonder if there’s hope for me, I think that if Peter could do all of that, then there has to be hope for me at that point.

Barbara Gorman

Describe what it’s like for you to live as a friend of Jesus

I think of the poem “Footprints” and how you’re never walking alone. Jesus is carrying you through the hardest times. He’s a good friend and there’s this ebb and the flow that He allows to happen like in any friendship but in turn, I help him share his goodness with others as my way of following. But Jesus is such a good friend that even if I do something wrong, I know that he will guide me back into the right direction. I’ve learned to trust in that.

What is it that you bring to the pastors lay advisory team?

I was brought onto the team to serve the parish and represent the women of this community. I’d love to see more and more people coming together to serve in our ministries no matter what age they are or language they speak. I’d say that I have a servant’s heart and like to find ways to generally improve things or plan events for others to enjoy. Promoting community is something that I learned from watching my mom. She had a huge influence in our parish growing up. I too would like to help our parish community grow and invite more diversity.

Who has had a profound effect on you and on your choice to live your Catholic faith?

My mom gave me the biggest example of serving and carrying others like Jesus. She was always at church, usually doing what needed to be done for the women’s club, but always doing something or being innovative and creating something new. I must have been 7 or 8 years old when she went to our pastor and said we should do a parish picnic. Now our pastor was set in his ways and said he didn’t know how to get something like that off the ground. So mom made it happen. Then, five years later she came back to him and said, “we should do a Mardi Gras party” and he said, “I don’t know how” and again, she gathered her team of people and they made it happen. My mother was always the worker and the doer. She spent her life serving and entertaining. Looking back, I can see how it was really just her way to serve God to build up the community or keep the people in the church. Even though her name was Mary, she was a real Martha.

She was kind of a St. Monica for me too in that when I was not active in going to church in my younger years as an adult, she continually prayed for me. When we were pregnant with the quadruplets, she was on a pilgrimage and would ask everyone she met to pray for her daughter. When she returned she told me that she had people all of the world who were praying for me. I experienced this again recently with so many people praying for my dad when he was in the hospital. I think you’ll get to a point where you can’t pray for yourself, you’re just getting through all of the tasks of the day, but others are holding you in prayer. To me, that’s God’s way of reaching out to us through the community; through other people.

Who is a character in the Bible or a saint that you identify with and why?

For me, it’s St Teresa, the Little Flower because she did small acts of kindness with great love. I know I am not capable of doing something grand, but there are little things that I can do with love.

Andres Garcia

Describe what it’s like for you to live as a friend of Jesus

It’s not easy to live as a Christian. It’s actually pretty demanding to try to always follow Him as closely as I can but it helps when I remember that God is always guiding me. I try to walk with Jesus and to be like him and to be compassionate to others because I feel like that’s what he would do.

What is it that you bring to the pastors lay advisory team?

I represent the Hispanic community. I have a different way of looking at ministry because the majority of people in my country (Peru) are Catholic which is not what most people from our parish experience here today. I remember the celebrations and festivals back home where the whole community comes together and the church spills into the whole neighborhood. Since coming here, I have gotten to know each of the Spanish ministries and have been able to meet most everyone who comes to the 2pm Mass in Spanish so I have access to influence many parishioners. But I want to be a resource for everyone in our parish. I have been serving on the committee that is planning the parish mission and want to help make this church the best that it can be.

Who has had a profound effect on you and on your choice to live your Catholic faith?

The Dominican priests served in my parish back in Peru. I was not always living my Catholic faith as I do today. I had a conversion experience and found myself in a confessional where this priest received me in the same way as Jesus welcomed sinful people. He hugged me; he embraced me and I was crying. I remember looking at him and seeing the face of Jesus. He was a very holy and humble man. I remember that he wore a sweater with a large tear in one elbow. A lot of us gave money to buy him a new sweater as a birthday present and the next we saw a poor man in our village wearing that sweater! and there was our priest back wearing his hole-y sweater. This man probably had the biggest impact on my life as a person of faith. But my mother too. Especially when I was far away from God and far away from the Church it was my mother’s prayers to our Lady of Fatima that held on to me and brought me back.

How would God describe you if we were interviewing him about the friendship between the two of you?

He’s come a long way!”

Who is a character in the bible or a saint that you identify with and why?

I feel like I have a lot in common with St. Augustine! It took me a while, but I finally got to come home.

Olivia Rutkowski

Info coming soon.