OBITUARY

Monsignor Stephen Thomas Churchwell

October 4, 1949May 31, 2018

Msgr. Stephen T. Churchwell, JCD, a longtime priest and canon lawyer for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, died May 31. He was 68. Born in Carmi, Illinois, on Oct. 4, 1949, he was the son of George and the late Juanita Wilson Churchwell. The oldest of five children, he converted to Catholicism at the age of 17, entering the seminary right out of high school. In a 2001 interview with The Georgia Bulletin, he admitted that his parents were less than thrilled at first. He said, “I think they thought that this would pass and they would come and get me when I wanted to leave,” adding, “but of course, I kept them waiting.” He attended Saint Meinrad College in Indiana from 1967-71, earning a degree in liberal arts, followed by a postgraduate degree in theology in 1976. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, on May 1, 1976. His first assignments were as a parochial vicar at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Decatur, and Sacred Heart Church, Atlanta. He served as parochial vicar at St. Anthony of Padua Church, Atlanta, for one year before beginning graduate studies in canon law from 1979-82 at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. There he was extremely involved, serving in student government and as a chaplain for the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He celebrated Sunday Mass and put on two retreats a year, as well as two annual penance services. Returning to Atlanta, he served as a parochial vicar at St. Andrew Church, Roswell, from 1982-84. Affiliated with the Metropolitan Tribunal from 1978-2000, Msgr. Churchwell’s positions included vice officialis (assistant chief judge) from 1982-88 and officialis (chief judge) from 1988-91. In 1984, he began serving as a parochial vicar at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Atlanta, until he was named pastor in 1994. In December 2000, he was appointed a judge in the provincial Court of Appeals. “I’ve always had a need for an intellectual outlet and (canon law) is one way to find that and to also be doing something helpful for people,” he told The Georgia Bulletin. As pastor of historic Sacred Heart, he welcomed Mother Teresa (now St. Teresa of Kolkata) for her 1995 visit to Atlanta. Given six days’ notice, he celebrated Mass for some 1,300 in honor of the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity on June 1, 1995. He was also pastor of the downtown parish for the 1996 Olympic Games, which he said “literally happened at our door.” He said, “It was definitely something to remember.” In the 2001 interview, Msgr. Churchwell said that he appreciated the uniqueness of the over 100-year-old Sacred Heart, which “existed not only when it was easy to be a Catholic, but when it was hard to be a Catholic.” He added, “One needs to respect the tradition that goes with that.” He celebrated his silver jubilee in May 2001, and later that month he was invested as monsignor by Archbishop John F. Donoghue, with the rank of prelate of honor. He was a founding member of the Catholic Credit Union board of directors until their merger with the Georgia United Credit Union in 2005. He remained on the board of directors until his death. He was also a trustee for the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia. He served as manager of the priest’s assistance fund for some 20 years, as well as the priests’ retirement committee. Msgr. Churchwell was the first Vicar for Senior Priests for the archdiocese, appointed by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory in 2010. As vicar, he was the liaison and minister for priests over the age of 65, a job he performed with pastoral care and love. His duties were varied, from arranging medical appointments for an elderly priest, overseeing the small corps of volunteers who provide transportation for these priests, coordinating out-of-town visits from family, advocating on benefits and financial matters, or spending time with ill priests. In a 2014 article, Msgr. Churchwell said, “It is very gratifying to me that I can participate in providing care for the priests who need it as they age.” Bishop David P. Talley, former auxiliary bishop of Atlanta, said of Msgr. Churchwell, “He has done and is doing amazing work” for his brother priests. “He is an amazing servant-leader … one who has not sought the spotlight for himself.” Msgr. Churchwell is survived by his father, George, and his siblings and their spouses, Douglas R. and Sharon Churchwell, Bradley K. and Carrie Churchwell, George T. and Melissa Churchwell Jr. and Kimberly A. and Keith McCarty, as well as numerous nieces and nephews. The vigil will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 7, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 353 Peachtree St., NE, Atlanta. A reception for clergy and family will follow. The funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 8, at the Basilica. Interment will follow immediately at Arlington Memorial Park. For those not attending the interment, a reception will follow at the Basilica. In lieu of flowers, donations in Msgr. Churchwell’s memory may be made to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 353, Peachtree St., NE, Atlanta, GA 30308.

  • FAMILY

  • Msgr. Stephen T. Churchwell, JCD, a longtime priest and canon lawyer for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, died May 31. He was 68.
    Born in Carmi, Illinois, on Oct. 4, 1949, he was the son of George and the late Juanita Wilson Churchwell. The oldest of five children, he converted to Catholicism at the age of 17, entering the seminary right out of high school. In a 2001 interview with The Georgia Bulletin, he admitted that his parents were less than thrilled at first. He said, “I think they thought that this would pass and they would come and get me when I wanted to leave,” adding, “but of course, I kept them waiting.”
    He attended Saint Meinrad College in Indiana from 1967-71, earning a degree in liberal arts, followed by a postgraduate degree in theology in 1976.
    He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, on May 1, 1976.
    His first assignments were as a parochial vicar at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Decatur, and Sacred Heart Church, Atlanta. He served as parochial vicar at St. Anthony of Padua Church, Atlanta, for one year before beginning graduate studies in canon law from 1979-82 at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. There he was extremely involved, serving in student government and as a chaplain for the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He celebrated Sunday Mass and put on two retreats a year, as well as two annual penance services.
    Returning to Atlanta, he served as a parochial vicar at St. Andrew Church, Roswell, from 1982-84.
    Affiliated with the Metropolitan Tribunal from 1978-2000, Msgr. Churchwell’s positions included vice officialis (assistant chief judge) from 1982-88 and officialis (chief judge) from 1988-91. In 1984, he began serving as a parochial vicar at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Atlanta, until he was named pastor in 1994. In December 2000, he was appointed a judge in the provincial Court of Appeals.
    “I’ve always had a need for an intellectual outlet and (canon law) is one way to find that and to also be doing something helpful for people,” he told The Georgia Bulletin.
    As pastor of historic Sacred Heart, he welcomed Mother Teresa (now St. Teresa of Kolkata) for her 1995 visit to Atlanta. Given six days’ notice, he celebrated Mass for some 1,300 in honor of the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity on June 1, 1995. He was also pastor of the downtown parish for the 1996 Olympic Games, which he said “literally happened at our door.” He said, “It was definitely something to remember.”
    In the 2001 interview, Msgr. Churchwell said that he appreciated the uniqueness of the over 100-year-old Sacred Heart, which “existed not only when it was easy to be a Catholic, but when it was hard to be a Catholic.” He added, “One needs to respect the tradition that goes with that.”
    He celebrated his silver jubilee in May 2001, and later that month he was invested as monsignor by Archbishop John F. Donoghue, with the rank of prelate of honor.
    He was a founding member of the Catholic Credit Union board of directors until their merger with the Georgia United Credit Union in 2005. He remained on the board of directors until his death. He was also a trustee for the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia. He served as manager of the priest’s assistance fund for some 20 years, as well as the priests’ retirement committee.
    Msgr. Churchwell was the first Vicar for Senior Priests for the archdiocese, appointed by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory in 2010. As vicar, he was the liaison and minister for priests over the age of 65, a job he performed with pastoral care and love. His duties were varied, from arranging medical appointments for an elderly priest, overseeing the small corps of volunteers who provide transportation for these priests, coordinating out-of-town visits from family, advocating on benefits and financial matters, or spending time with ill priests.
    In a 2014 article, Msgr. Churchwell said, “It is very gratifying to me that I can participate in providing care for the priests who need it as they age.”
    Bishop David P. Talley, former auxiliary bishop of Atlanta, said of Msgr. Churchwell, “He has done and is doing amazing work” for his brother priests. “He is an amazing servant-leader … one who has not sought the spotlight for himself.”
    Msgr. Churchwell is survived by his father, George, and his siblings and their spouses, Douglas R. and Sharon Churchwell, Bradley K. and Carrie Churchwell, George T. and Melissa Churchwell Jr. and Kimberly A. and Keith McCarty, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
    The vigil will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 7, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 353 Peachtree St., NE, Atlanta. A reception for clergy and family will follow.
    The funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 8, at the Basilica. Interment will follow immediately at Arlington Memorial Park. For those not attending the interment, a reception will follow at the Basilica.
    In lieu of flowers, donations in Msgr. Churchwell’s memory may be made to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 353, Peachtree St., NE, Atlanta, GA 30308.

Services

  • Receiving of the body Thursday, June 7, 2018
  • Vigil Thursday, June 7, 2018
  • Funeral Mass Friday, June 8, 2018
  • Interment Friday, June 8, 2018
REMEMBERING

Monsignor Stephen Thomas Churchwell

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Don Cameron

September 6, 2018

Few people in my lifetime have inspired me more than Monsignor Stephen T. Churchwell. A very refined gentleman of God, he welcomed and nurtured a wide variety of people. He gave complete and robust homilies in a very short period of time, and taught well. His courtesy and genuine concern reaped dividends to everyone he touched. He had great wisdom, common sense and a great sense of humor. Rest in peace, and well done, good and faithful servant!

Teresa Land

June 6, 2018

Father Steve was my first cousin and married my husband Bill & I , 43 yrs. ago. He was very smart & very focused on religion at an early age. I am sorry I never got to hear him preach, but I am sure he is having a great time in heaven. Teresa Land

Paul T. Frizzell, Jr.

June 5, 2018

It was unfortunate for me to learn of the death of Msgr. Churchwell approximately 4 hours afterwards last week.

Besides his constantly occasional remarks during his most robust homilies about various statistics that he could quote about marital and other pressing domestic issues from years of experience as a canon lawyer in the annulments office of the Archdiocese here--which was always specifically appealing to me, as an MIT economics graduate student studying data analysis and development policy in underdeveloped parts of the world--I also remember some more interesting homilies that he's delivered at Sacred Heart Church.

I remember my very first Sunday serving as a lector there, Msgr. was the priest celebrating that mass, but more importantly, I remember one year on a weekday, on the feast of the Archangels, it was him who celebrated that afternoon; and having had the experience of visiting an Orthodox Church years ago myself, he reiterated to me during his homily that whereas most Orthodox churches generally depict it's images of angels as Seraphim, most Roman Catholics have over the course of centuries deviated from this depiction in it's imagery to Cherubim--further emphasizing that regardless of type, the universally shared fact is that they only need and only use two wings to fly.

Given that regardless of what they look like and the fact that their purpose is to protect and transmit life-altering messages to God's people, I am truly confident in knowing that although timingly unexpected, Msgr. Churchwell is now right up there with them, and will protect not only those of us who knew him in this short earthly and carnal life, but all of God's children in his new, long and more spiritual eternal life.

Not only may Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raephel pray for us; but also may Msgr. Churchwell, pray for us.

Tony Green

June 4, 2018

A wonderful fellow with whom we shared many sorrows and joys through school and ministry, and for several years beyond.

Regrettably, we remained estranged for many years, until his death. What an unnecessary waste. He was a pain in so many ways, but an inexhaustible joy in so many others-- too numerous to mention.

Joseph-Henri Fradet

May 31, 2018

JMJ

Monsignor Churchwell was a most dear friend personally and the Guardian Angel of St. Francis de Sales Traditional Latin Mass Parish. I first got to know him when Archbishop Donoghue directed me to work with Monsignor Churhwell in bringing the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter to the Archdiocese to tend to souls attached to the Traditional Roman Rite. Monsignor was exceptionally helpful in so many ways, not the least of which was welcoming us to have holy mass offered at the magnificent Basilica of Sacred Heart Catholic Church downtown until we could establish our own home. Monsignor will be sorely missed by all at St. Francis de Sales and all throughout the Archdiocese. Rest in peace, dear Monsignor. Thank you for your zeal for the salvation of souls!!

FROM THE FAMILY