The Long History of St. George
When the first Catholics arrived in Newnan around the beginning of the 20th Century, they fulfilled their Sunday mass obligations by traveling to Atlanta, Griffin, or LaGrange. From these humble beginnings, the Mansour, Norman, and Carrasco families became the founding families for a lasting Catholic presence in Coweta County, the fruits of which eventually becoming our beloved St. George Parish. These founding families later chose Taft Mansour to petition the bishop of Atlanta for a priest to come say mass in Newnan. Monsignor Joseph E. Moylan agreed and in November 1938 the first mass was said in the Clark Street home of Ellis and Effie Mansour. 48 people attended this first mass and from there, mass in Newnan became a regular occurrence.
With a regular mass in town, the families began the work of organizing as a parish. The first Ladies Altar Society formed in 1940 followed by the first Holy Name Society. In 1945, the women of the parish organized the first spaghetti supper fundraiser. The ladies prepared the food on the first floor and carried the pots to the second floor community room of the County Welfare Building (now the County Offices) on Perry Street, where they held the fundraiser. Margaret Bohorfoush, (sister-in-law to Mayme Mansour) whose family hailed from Italy, provided the authentic sauce. They held their second supper at the Newnan Country Club and served over 300 people, making a profit of $450.
The celebration of Mass continued in the Mansour household for several years until the congregation outgrew the limits of the home. In 1947, the Virginia Hotel (now Virginia House on the corner of Washington & Jefferson Streets) and the Swinton Hotel (currently the Commercial House on Perry Street) offered the use of their dining rooms to the families for mass. By 1950, the congregation was assigned to the Redemptorists Fathers as a mission of the Sacred Heart Church in Griffin, with Reverend Edward Coyne, C.SS.R. receiving the first priest assignment to St. George.
The congregation continued growing as Newnan received new businesses from the North. The bishop required the congregation to raise $8,000 for the cost of building a church. The congregation used pledges, donations, and community fundraising events from the community to raise that sum. Mr. Bryan Blackburn donated a lot on Jackson Street to the fledgling parish and the St. George women purchased the adjoining lot. Mr. George (last name unknown), who contributed greatly to the fundraising campaign, requested that the new church be named St. George. In addition, St. George is the patron saint of Beirut, Lebanon, a place where the founding families could trace their heritage. So, on May 26, 1952 the construction of the first St. George Catholic Church began.
In August of that year, the first mass was said by Rev. Walter Kuhn, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Griffin, with 69 in attendance. The church was formally dedicated on December 15, 1952 by Bishop George Parker, Auxiliary of Chicago, and the mass celebrated by Bishop F. Hyland. The church held 100 people and had two small wings; one housed a hall, the other a bedroom and bath for the priest. From 1955 until 1965 masses were held on Friday night, Saturday morning, and at 8:00 and 10:00 on Sunday morning. The congregation eventually sold the building to the Western Baptist Association and is now part of the Montessori School.
Reverend Simon Glasal, C.SS.R., succeeded Fr. Coyne in 1952. Two years later, Reverend Clement Tackney, C.SS.R, received his assignment to St. George. They held the first First Communion at Jackson Street in May 1954. June Mansour and Fayes Thomas (daughter of Michael and Mayme Mansour – sister of Charlie Mansour) celebrated the first wedding on November 17, 1959 at Jackson Street. In 1961 came the first Parish Picnic.
The parishioners held the first bake sale in 1955 and it proved legendary. They set out tables upon tables of baked goods and, in less than an hour, the tables were bare. This annual day-before-Thanksgiving sale continued for 54 years, the last being held in 1999. The sidewalk of the Colonial Grocery Store on West Broad Street, across from Central Baptist Church in downtown Newnan served as the location for this first sale. Rose Schuldise, who came to Newnan because of her husband's transfer to the James River Plant, provided the recipe for the event's signature streusel cake.
As the migration from the North continued, the St. George congregation outgrew the confines of the little church on Jackson Street. The debt on the church had been paid by 1963 and once again, the families of the parish began in earnest to prepare for a new church building. They purchased ten acres and a home on Roscoe Road and the Mansour family (Taft, James, Ellis and John Charles) donated 25 adjoining acres. The Parish Council (Katherine Boswell, Foye Boswell, Tom Falls, Vernon Hultz, Bettye Lambert, Ellis Mansour, Martina Warren and President Mike Stefanchick) began plans for a church and hall. Father Tackney led this effort until his reassignment in 1967, leaving Fr. Luke Doheny to make the plans materialize.
On October 16, 1968, they signed the contract for the new church on Roscoe Road. The dedication of the church occurred eight months later on June 22, 1969, with Thomas A. Donnellan, Archbishop of Atlanta, James O’Malley, C.SS.R, Clement Tackney, C.SS.R., Luke Doheny, C.SS.R. Over 500 people attended the dedication of the church and the reception that followed. The house on the property was originally intended to be a convent, but by the time the church was operational, nuns were scarce and the house became the rectory. The women of the parish took turns cleaning the rectory and preparing meals for the priest. The first First Communion held in the new church happened in May 1969, followed by the first baptism in June 1969 for Melissa Ann Norred (Rochelle & Herschell’s daughter), now Smith. 1969 also stands as the year of the first donuts after mass at St. George. The assignment of Reverend Joseph Freund, C.SS.R., to St. George also came in 1969. He remained until 1973 and during his time in Newnan, he hosted a thirty minute radio show on the local radio station.
Although a priest had been in residence since 1968, St. George remained a mission church until March 31, 1974, when St. George was designated a parish and Fr. John Lehrinan, the priest in residence since 1973, became the first pastor. The new parish consisted of the entire county of Coweta. During Father Lehrinan’s time at St. George, the parish adopted a parish in the Dominican Republic and helped support it for several years. Father Richard Vail arrived at St. George in 1981 and the following year, he organized the Legion of Mary. He began plans for the installation of stained glass windows, later installed in 1987 and refurbished in 1996. After his death in 1991, the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was placed on the grounds in his memory.
Fr. John Barry arrived in 1985. Father Donald Winter joined St. George in 1987 and remained until 1991 when Fr. Michael Koncik arrived as the last Redemptorists priest to be assigned to St. George. In June 1992, St. George said good-bye to the Redemptorists after forty-two years of service. Reverend Leo Herbert became the first pastor of the new diocesan church. In 1993 St. George welcomed our first Deacon, John Myers. Shortly after, in 1994, Sr. Bridget Ann Henderson, BVM, became the Director of Religious Education, having began a preschool in 1993. The parish held the first St. George Day celebration in 1994. In 1996, Deacon Ben Gross became the second deacon assigned to the parish.
Once again the growing parish outgrew its facilities, so construction began on a new parish hall consisting of offices, classrooms and a twenty-four hour chapel, the dedication of which happening in 1997. This new parish hall, now known as Henderson Hall, was remaned such for Sr. Bridget in 1998.
In the spring of 1999, in recognition of the growing Hispanic population in Newnan and the surrounding area, the parish added a Spanish language Mass, regularly celebrated by Fr. Joseph Fahey. In 2001 the Archbishop assigned Fr. Jorge Christancho to the parish as our first Parochial Vicar. In June of 2002, Fr. Austin Fogarty became pastor of St. George. During his 10-year tenure as pastor, he made numerous changes to St. George including the remodeling of the church and the institution of weekly devotions. In 2003, Fr. Francisco Javier Munoz was assigned as Parochial Vicar and he served in that capacity until 2009 when Fr. Jesus David Trujillo took his place.
In 2012, the Archbishop assigned our current Pastor, Fr. Henry Atem, to St. George and in 2016, retired priest, Fr. Alvaro Avendaño joined him as a priest in residence. Fr. Henry is assisted by the four deacons currently assigned to St. George: Deacon Steve Beers, Deacon Ed Buckley, Deacon Bill Heinsch, and Deacon Emeritus Jim Bishop.
St. George has been and remains a vibrant and growing faith community. At the present time, we have about 1,200 families registered in the parish from many different backgrounds, cultures and places.