At a farewell Mass for Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory April 28, he told the congregation: "You have invited me to believe more deeply and to love more generously than I might ever have imagined 14 years ago."

He also asked for their prayers "as a personal treasure" and assured them of his prayers for them "as a sacred pledge always."

May 3 was Archbishop Gregory's final day as the leader Atlanta Archdiocese. He is scheduled to be installed as the new archbishop in the Archdiocese of Washington May 21.

During his time in Atlanta, he ordained 64 priests and 152 permanent deacons and created 15 new parishes and missions. He gathered with Atlanta priests to say farewell at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week.

The archdiocesan Mass of farewell took place on Divine Mercy Sunday in the Centennial Center at Marist School in Atlanta. When it was over, people crowded around the archbishop to wish him well. Women and men from the Ghanaian Catholic community blessed him and sang a song of praise.

Maxwell Nelson, a member of St. Patrick Church, in Norcross, said the Ghanian community has high regards for the archbishop.

"We absolutely honor him. He's been very helpful to our community," he said.

CC Nguyen and Danh Nguyen, from Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Norcross, shook the archbishop's hand to say thank you. A new church is scheduled to be dedicated in November on the feast day of the Vietnamese Martyrs. The archbishop broke ground with a ceremonial shovel at the parish to kickoff construction two years ago.

"We have tremendous respect for him," said CC Nguyen.

The two men came to the Mass to show their appreciation and to let Archbishop Gregory know the Vietnamese community would keep him in their prayers, he said.

Two longtime ushers from Atlanta's Cathedral of Christ the King who have seen the archbishop many times and admire his welcoming style also came to the Mass. Usher Dale LaPedus said he always sees how engaged the archbishop is with people who want to say hello, with a talent to remember people's names after just a few introductions.

Casey Kossuth, the other usher, said he admired the archbishop's preaching. "I love his homilies. He really connects with everyone," he said.

Rachel Ajua, from Atlanta's St. Lawrence Church, wanted to hear him preach for the last time.

"He's just warm and inviting. He is relatable," said the 24-year-old. "Whenever he is the guest preacher, it would feel like an honor."

"He's welcoming. That's the whole idea," said Elizabeth Piper, who attends Atlanta's St. Jude the Apostle Church. "You want to embrace all the different communities."

In his homily, pointing out the shortcomings of the apostles, Archbishop Gregory said it should comfort Catholics to know there is room in the church for all.

"We are those that the Lord calls blessed because we have come to believe without the proof that Thomas demanded and ultimately received," he said.

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Nelson is a staff reporter at The Georgia Bulletin, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.