Catholic Church of St. Monica
The vibrant parish of Saint Monica was established on May 24, 1994 as a tiny mission extension of the Church of St. Benedict ( Duluth , GA ). The Reverend Monsignor Terry W. Young, pastor of St. Benedict, was given full ecclesiastical charge of the nascent community. The first Mass was held on September 14, 1994 in the auditorium of North Gwinnett High School ( Suwanee , GA ). The Reverend Stewart Wilber, M. Div., the first mission parochial vicar, presided over the approximately 60 families (200 people) that joined together that Sunday. Together, they became the founding Pioneer Parishioners of the new Mission .
Under Fr. Wilber’s dedicated leadership, the Mission grew steadily to include religious education classes for the children of the Pioneers, and the establishment of seminal volunteer groups including the Ladies Society, the first Mission Pastoral Council and the Facilities Planning Committee. This latter committee was charged with the daunting task of searching for land for a permanent home for the Mission .
In June 1996, the Archdiocese of Atlanta transferred Fr. Wilber to his first pastorate at the Church of St. Theresa in Douglasville , GA. In that same month the Reverend Gregory D. Goolsby, M.Div., J.D., was assigned by Monsignor Young to become the Mission ’s second Vicar. The Mission now numbered approximately 400 families. There were 350 children enrolled in the Parish School of Religion. In Father Goolsby’s first year the Mission Music Ministry and Liturgy Committee were founded, as well as the Art and Environment Committee. The Mission community continued to meet at North Gwinnett High School .
In February 1997, a 31-acre tract of land was purchased on Buford Highway to be the permanent site of the Mission complex. Under the expert direction of Mr. Bill Cripps, Chairman, the Facilities Planning Committee moved into high gear. In the fall of 1997 the Mission undertook it’s first capital funds campaign, called Founding our Legacy. It was chaired by Mrs. Karen Taylor. The campaign yielded $2,000,000 toward the construction of the first buildings.
On February 1, 1998 , by order of the Vatican , the Mission was canonically designated as a separate parish from its mother church, St. Benedict. Father Goolsby was named the Founding Pastor of the Catholic Church of Saint Monica.
In March 1998 the architectural firm Leo A. Daley and Associates was hired to design the building project for the Parish. At this point in time the Parish had grown to 650 families. During this period the Men’s Club, the CANA Group, the Parish chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Knights of Columbus were founded, adding to both the spiritual and social vitality of the community.
The construction firm of Dudley Barrett was hired in January of 1999 and construction on the first two buildings of the complex began in March 1999. These first two buildings comprise 32,000 sq. ft. and contain the first Parish Church , which seats 750 people. The spacious Narthex offers cry room seating for 300 people. The education building contains 14 classrooms, ten administration offices, and the Archbishop James P. Lyke Memorial Conference Hall, named in memory of the fourth Archbishop of Atlanta.
On February 19, 2000 , the approximately 1000 families of the Parish celebrated the dedication Mass of their new Church. The Most Reverend John F. Donoghue, fifth Archbishop of Atlanta, presided. St. Monica’s was the first parish in the Archdiocese of Atlanta to be dedicated in the first year of the Third Millennium.
The Parish grew in the ensuing two years to a population of 2,400 families, or approximately 7,000 souls. It is now the largest Christian denomination in the Duluth-Suwanee area. There are over 1,500 children in its religious education program. There are 37 separate spiritual and community life groups operating for the welfare and growth of the assembly of faithful Catholics. The Parish was led by Father Greg Goolsby, it’s Founding Pastor until 2006, followed by Father Jack Durkin (2006 - present). Five parochial vicars have served the community as well. They are the Reverend Nathan C. Calhoun (2000 – 2002), the Reverend Michael G. Kingery (2002 – 2003), the Reverend Mansueto "Chito" Palang (2003-2007), Reverend Pavol Brenkus (2007 - 2010), Reverend Thomas Zahuta (2010-2013), Reverend Michael Revak (2013-Present). Eight deacons have served the assembly: The Reverend Mr. Walker King (1994-1999), the Reverend John Koppenaal (1999 – present), the Reverend Mr. Billy Pond (2001 – 2003), the Reverend Mr. Alfred Samoranski (2003 - 2005), the Reverend Mr. Bob Tipton (2004 - present), the Reverend Mr. Ed Rademacher (2008 - present), the Reverend Mr. Joe Carter (2009 - present) the Reverend Mr. Bill Bohn (2011 - 20015).
The artwork of the first Church is especially striking, and was commissioned specifically for the community. Atlanta artist Jim Bell produced a stunning crucifix for the assembly, as it’s first object of devotional art. In the three years that followed, Mr. Bell produced near life-sized ceramic statues of the Holy Family, St. Augustine and his mother St. Monica, St. Peter, St. Paul , and the Baptismal Font. The last statue, that of St. Paul , was dedicated on December 15, 2002 . This set of art is the only of its kind in the world and is a source of great pride for the community. The twin statues of Sts. Peter and Paul are the only set of such statues in any church of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. There is also a magnificent pastel portrait of St. Monica in the Narthex. It was executed by Kathryn Gentile in 1999, one of the founding Pioneers of the Parish.