We Catholics of Pickens County

We Catholics of Pickens County2017-06-09T14:21:48+00:00

A historical overview by Pat Champion (a founding parishioner of Our Lady of the Mountains) 

The following is a quote from The History of Pickens County by Luke Tate which was published in 1935, “In the nineties, the Catholics came to see us.  Like the Jews, Catholics are not often found in virgin territory, but many of them were at work in the marble industry in Tate and Marble Hill.  Mr. John McGrath, father of the present Father McGrath, was one of the members of and principal supporters of this church.  For lack of support it has been discontinued, and the field has been left to the Methodists and Baptists.”

The Marble Hill Church was closed before 1900 and it was many years before Mass was held regularly in Pickens County.  Father Edward McGrath, son of John McGrath, served at Sacred Heart Church in Atlanta and became a monsignor.

About 1957 Father Kolb, a Redemptorist priest from Dalton parish, began saying Mass at the home of Joe Butler in Jasper.  Besides the few Catholic families in Pickens County and Northern Cherokee County, there were four or five large Catholic families who spent summers at Tate Mountain Estates on Burnt Mount.  To accommodate everyone during the summer months, the building which is now the Tom Quinton Art Center was rented.  This arrangement continued for several years, but by 1961, the building was being used every Sunday of the year.

Father W. Hiavac, who was also a Redemptorist, followed Fr. Kolb and after several years, the Marist Fathers from Marist School in Atlanta said Mass for the Catholics of Pickens County.  In the summer of 1968, the Catholics of Pickens County began attending Mass in Canton, which had become a Mission of St. Francis of Assisi in Cartersville.  Mass was said in what was then the Georgia Power building on Main Street in downtown Canton.  On April 24, 1977, Our Lady of LaSalette in Canton was dedicated.  Father Joseph Nolan served the mission church from 1979-1984.

On September 16, 1984, Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan decreed that Our Lady of LaSalette would have a new mission in Jasper beginning immediately.  Father Joseph Nolan was named pastoral administrator.  The first Mass was held at the rectory of the Jasper Mission October 13, 1984 with 26 in attendance.  The Mission was soon named Our Lady of the Mountains and having rapidly outgrown the rectory, the Catholics of Pickens County were once again using the Art Center building after an absence of sixteen years.  In only three years, our lovely Church building was completed and dedicated on Saturday, November 7, 1987.

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This black and while photograph shows how the old farmhouse was adapted into a worship space for the newly formed mission.  The old dining room became the place where the makeshift altar was set up.  The living room and also the kitchen became the place for the congregation.  It wasn’t long until our little band of saints outgrew this small house (which later became our Parish Office).  This same chalice was still being used by Father Byrd in 2015.

From 1993 until 2004, Father Neil Jones and Father Denis Kolumber served both Our Lady of LaSalette and Our Lady of the Mountains.  On June 13, 2004, our large addition which seats 500 people was completed.  In 2004, we were designated a Parish and Father Frank Richardson come to serve us from the Atlanta Archdiocese.

What follows is a history of the Mission of Our Lady of the Mountains that was copied from a few typed pages that accompany a photo album in our parish library.

Our Lady of LaSalette Church in Canton, Georgia was created in 1969 to serve the counties of Cherokee and Pickens as a mission of the newly established parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Cartersville.  In 1979, Rev. Joseph J. Nolan, M.S., was appointed as the first resident priest at the mission of Our Lady of LaSalette.  By early 1984, the number of parishioners attending services from Pickens County had increased to such a degree, it was obvious that providing a local place of worship in his area was essential.  Recommendations, based on observation and census, were submitted to the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and they, in turn, made known their interest in setting up a Catholic mission to be located in the county seat, Jasper.  Permission was granted to look for property suitable for the future construction of a church and rectory.

After extensive searching and many weeks of frustration, a beautiful piece of property, consisting of 36 acres and a house (which would later serve as a rectory), came on the market.  After conducting an on-site inspection, the archdiocese approved the purchase.

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The new church was attacimage008hed to the existing farmhouse (barely visible behind the truck in this picture). An addition was later built. A Celtic cross was used to mark the back of this original church (though that wall would be removed when the later expansion was built). When the parish exterior was updated in 2014, a Celtic cross was put on the steeple.

On June 22, 1984, the first meeting of the future parishioners was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Dale Rogers in Jasper.  Of the 25 families contacted, 13 were represented at this meeting.  They were informed of the Archbishop’s intent to establish a mission in the near future and all those present enthusiastically volunteered to serve in any capacity necessary to accomplish this goal.

On September 16, 1984, the late Archbishop Donnellan decreed that a new Catholic mission would be established in Pickens County centered in Jasper, Ga., appointing Father Joseph J. Nolan as administrator.  On this same day, he established the mission of Our Lady of LaSalette in Canton as a parish, thus fulfilling the needs of the Catholic community in North Georgia Planning meetings continued to be held in Jasper.  Committees were formed and a name for the new mission was chosen.  The majority of the parishioners wished to dedicate the new mission in honor of Mary the Mother of God.  Because the location of the future church would be nestled in and around the beautiful North Georgia Mountains, the name “Our Lady of the Mountains” was approved.

Officially, Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Mission began its worship on Saturday, October 13, 1984 in the living room of the rectory, with Father Joseph Nolan celebrating the 5:00 p.m. Mass.  About 26 people attended.  In about 3 months’ time, the rectory proved too small to accommodate the Sunday congregation.  Saturday evening Mass continued at the rectory for three more years, while Sunday Mass was moved to the Tom Quinton Memorial Art Center in downtown Jasper.

The first Parish Council was formed by a group of volunteers, and Joseph Gonzales, Sr. was elected president.  From this developed a planning and building committee of which Ken Pint was elected Chairman.  In coordination with a newly elected Finance Council, the first project was to plot our projected growth and plan the needs of our future church.  Pledge cards were sent to the parishioners and it was soon evident that financial returns were promising enough to seek permission from the Chancery to hire an architect.  After official approval, the architectural firm of Barker and Cunningham was commissioned to design a church based on criteria set forth by the Building Committee to meet the present and future needs for worship, religious education, and fellowship, within the budgetary limitations approved by the Archdiocese.

hed to the existing farmhouse (barely visible behind the truck in this picture).  An addition was later built.  A Celtic cross was used to mark the back of this original church (though that wall would be removed when the later expansion was built).  When the parish exterior was updated in 2014, a Celtic cross was put on the steeple.

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These are some of the LaSalette Fathers who came for a picnic, and who were part of the founding of our parish. They are (from left to right): Father Jim Hurley (in white shirt); Father Bob Susanne (wearing his jacket); Father ? (in the back; if anyone can identify him, please let us know); and Father Joe Nolan (holding his keys).

In early April of 1987, the bulldozers moved in and thus began the long awaited fulfillment of the dreams of those who had traveled so many miles for so many years to worship.  Our new home is truly a reflection of our community – a gentle blend of old world tradition and youthful enthusiasm for the future.  We, the parishioners, should be proud of our accomplishments in such a short time and we thank God for making all this possible.  May our church prove to be a symbol of love and hope to the community under the protection of Our Lady of the Mountains.The new church was attac