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Farewell to a Father
Pastor helped shepherd church through growth
meet and greet 2
Tim Fitzgerald, right, chats with Father Peter Rau during a recent celebration honoring the pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd in north Forsyth. - photo by Jim Dean
If you ask John Kieffer, Father Peter Rau was more than a pastor to the congregation at Church of the Good Shepherd.

After 12 years of stewardship with the north Forsyth parish, Rau was “more like a close friend you see every week ... someone you count on for your spiritual and personal support,”  Kieffer said.

Rau has since moved to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church in Roswell. Church of the Good Shepherd’s new pastor is Father Frank Richardson.

Under Rau’s leadership, the Church of the Good Shepherd grew to meet an expanding population and a growing immigrant presence.

In 1996, the church offered three Masses. Today, Good Shepherd holds seven Masses per week, including one in sign language and another in Spanish.

Rau, who is originally from Decatur, said meeting the challenges of the immigrant community was a rewarding experience.

“With every growth spurt comes new populations,” Rau said. “With the building boom came the Hispanic community. Most of them were Catholic.”

The congregation grew with the county’s population. He said the “energy and enthusiasm of the growing community” were among the church’s most memorable qualities.

The church held a farewell for Rau on Jan. 10, during which parishioners honored his service and presented him with going away gifts.

Kieffer served on the church’s finance council and worked with Rau his entire tenure. He said many families in the county have benefited from the programs Rau helped start at the church.

“The leadership of Father Rau filled so many needs,” Kieffer said. “Personally, he was always a mentor to me, a person of tremendous character and integrity and a great leader for our church.”

Rau said he will miss working in Forsyth County.

“I’ll miss the good people,” Rau said. “I’ll miss watching people work and grow together in Forsyth County.”

Rau was ordained a priest in 1985 and has served in various parishes across Georgia. He has three younger sisters who live in Virginia, Delaware and Atlanta. His parents still call Decatur home.

In his spare time he likes to go to the movies and read as much as he can. He also enjoyed working out at Gold’s Gym in Cumming “when time permitted.”

“I’ll miss my friends at Gold’s Gym,” Rau said.

Kieffer said it is Rau who will be missed.

“I think people will remember his warm and friendly personality,” Kieffer said. “To have his help and guidance, it
meant a lot. Not just for me, for a lot of people in this county.”

E-mail Frank Reddy at