Archbishop James P. Lyke
Archbishop Lyke was born on February 18, 1939 in Chicago, IL – the youngest of seven children born to Amos and Ora Lyke. Affectionately called “Jimmy” by his family, he grew up in Wentworth Gardens, a public housing project on Chicago’s Southside. From these modest environs, he went on to become a Franciscan friar, a Catholic priest, a teacher, a pastor, a bishop of the Church, and at the time of his untimely death in late 1992, he was the highest ranking African American in the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
Young Jimmy went to St. George Catholic School. There, his desire to become a Catholic grew so strong that he eventually brought Baptist mother and all but one of his siblings into the faith.
After entering the Franciscan Order, Sacred Heart Province, he was ordained a Catholic priest on June 24, 1966. His first assignment was in Cleveland, Ohio, where he taught at Padua High School. While in Cleveland, Father Lyke was also active in the community and led the local Operation Breadbasket efforts for civil rights. After the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis, TN, Father Lyke requested to be sent to Memphis, where he served for nine years as pastor at St. Thomas Church (now St. Augustine). He was the first African American Catholic priest to serve in the state of Tennessee. During that time Father Lyke’s leadership role in the Black Catholic community took on a national dimension. He served as president of the National Office for Black Catholics and was a close advisor to Bishop Carroll Dozier of Memphis, TN. Also while at St. Thomas, Father Lyke became the first African American chaplain for Marriage Encounter. He authored the filmstrip marriage enrichment program, “Black Married Love.”
In 1977 he was assigned as chaplain of the Newman Center at Grambling University, Grambling, LA. The assignment turned out to be short-lived, for less than two years later, Pope John Paul II called him to the episcopacy as auxiliary bishop of Cleveland, OH. He was ordained August 1, 1979. He served as the Urban Vicar there until 1990, when he became the Apostolic Administrator for the Archdiocese of Atlanta following the resignation of Archbishop Eugene Marino, SSJ. On June 24, 1991, the 25th Anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, James Patterson Lyke, OFM, Ph.D. was installed as the fifth bishop and fourth archbishop of Atlanta, GA.
Archbishop Lyke received his Ph.D. in Theology with a specialization in Catechetics from The Union Institute in Cincinnati, OH in 1981. The title of his doctoral thesis is “A Black Perspective on the National Catechetical Directory.” Archbishop Lyke also coordinated an outstanding committee of African American liturgists and musicians in the production and publication of the highly regarded African American Catholic hymnal, “Lead Me, Guide Me” in 1986.
We are proud to be the spiritual children of such a caring and loving person, Archbishop Lyke.