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Diocese of Savannah: Where do we go from here

In a recent message to diocesan priests and lay employees, the "Shelter in Place" order by Governor Brian Kemp was reiterated as remaining a priority. Not only parishes but the parish office is to remain closed during the current two-week order or until further notice. The way things are done throughout the diocese continues to change every day and that includes the leadership of the diocese.

The coming months leading to Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM, Conv. being installed as the next Archbishop of the Diocese of Atlanta will have an immediate impact on his former home, the Diocese of Savannah and its many parishes and parishioners. Combined with the present coronavirus pandemic, change has come in a big way but there is a plan in place and it will take effect immediately after Hartmayer is installed at St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell May 6.

That installation, previously invitation-only, has been designated private to better prevent spreading the virus. The College of Consultors for the Diocese of Savannah, a group of priests, including Father Daniel Firmin, the current Vicar General and pastor at St. James the less Catholic Church, Savannah, has eight days from the installation to gather in order to elect what is known as a Diocesan Administrator.

The duties of the Diocesan Administrator are many but can be summed up as the person appointed to take on the day to day operations of the diocese until the day Pope Francis appoints the next Bishop of Savannah. Firmin's tenure as the Vicar General will also be amongst the many changes around the diocese.

Upon Hartmayer's installation in Atlanta Firmin will cease to hold that position as Vicar Generals are selected by sitting bishops. Firmin can be re-selected as the diocese Vicar General if the new bishop so chooses, but in the meantime the position, a representative of the bishop with executive authority, will be dormant.

The departure of Hartmayer to Atlanta is something the entire diocese will have to face, including Firmin who has worked side by side with the bishop for over a decade. "I'll miss [him] both personally and professionally," said Firmin by phone last month. "Every time I stop to think about it I kind of get choked up. On one hand I'm very sad to lose Bishop Hartmayer, we have worked together since 2011 and have had a great working relationship. "He continued, "On the other hand it's an exciting time and I look forward to seeing who the Lord has for us as our next shepherd."

More information on this and other news surrounding the parishes within the diocese can be found on the Diocese of Savannah website www.diosav.org

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