At annual MLK Mass, Bishop Fabre asserts faith must compel us to act against racism

by Mary Lou Seewoester

North Texas Catholic

January 15, 2020

Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux delivers his homily during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Diocesan Memorial Mass Jan. 11 at St. Joseph Parish in Arlington. (NTC/Ben Torres)Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux delivers his homily during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Diocesan Memorial Mass Jan. 11 at St. Joseph Parish in Arlington. (NTC/Ben Torres)
Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux delivers his homily during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Diocesan Memorial Mass Jan. 11 at St. Joseph Parish in Arlington. (NTC/Ben Torres)


ARLINGTON — On Jan. 11, the altar and ambo at St. Joseph Parish in Arlington displayed brightly colored cloths from Ghana with designs representing a symbol for God.

The choir sang and swayed with unique harmonies in Spanish, Latin, English, and Yoruba, a Nigerian language. Piano, organ, guitar, drums, bongos, congas, and tambourines supported the lively worship music.

The Knights of Peter Claver, its Ladies Auxiliary, and the Knights of Columbus escorted two bishops and several priests and deacons in the entrance procession for the 34th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Mass.

Bishop Michael Olson concelebrated the Memorial Mass with Bishop Shelton Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in Louisiana; Father Daniel Kelley, pastor of St. Joseph; Father Tom Kennedy, St. Joseph parochial vicar; and Father Bart Jasilek, SVD, pastor of Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth.

The message honoring the memory and mission of Dr. King came from Bishop Fabre, the guest homilist, who urged the faithful to “remember the painful realities of the past … act against racism in the present,” and then “go deeper” to work for conversion of hearts held captive by racism.

Bishop Fabre, who is the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), referred several times to the bishops’ pastoral letter against racism, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.

He said the bishops’ letter states, “We are called to listen and know the stories of our brothers and sisters. We must create opportunities to hear, with open hearts, the tragic stories that are deeply imprinted on the lives of our brothers and sisters, if we are to be moved with empathy to promote justice.”

“After we remember the past, it must be our faith that compels us to act against racism in the present,” he added. “Foundational to our life is our respect for the human life of every single person created in the image and likeness of God.”

Bishop Michael Olson receives the gifts of bread and wine from members of the Ghanaian community during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Diocesan Memorial Mass. (NTC/Ben Torres)Bishop Michael Olson receives the gifts of bread and wine from members of the Ghanaian community during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Diocesan Memorial Mass. (NTC/Ben Torres)
Bishop Michael Olson receives the gifts of bread and wine from members of the Ghanaian community during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Diocesan Memorial Mass. (NTC/Ben Torres)


Bishop Fabre aligned the Sunday readings for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord with the work and mission of Dr. King. He said Dr. King recognized that Jesus’ public ministry began after His Baptism. Dr. King’s own Christian Baptism “compelled him to act to end segregation and fight against racism. The Rev. Dr. King was a minister of God…he put his baptismal faith into action.”

Bishop Fabre recognized the vital role that 1960s civil legislation played in overcoming racism but challenged the community to take on a “deeper task.”

“Civil laws are critically important, and we work for those,” he said, “but as people of faith we are called not only to be active in the civil realm but to be more active in the spiritual realm to convert hearts.”

He added, “As Jesus did after His Baptism and as our brothers and sisters have done in the past, we must lovingly, constructively, and nonviolently put our baptismal faith into action by struggling against racism either in our own hearts or in the hearts of others.”

As chairperson of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Mass committee, Madeline Morrison explained that volunteers from many parishes and cultures helped plan and participate in the annual celebration.

“Dr. King was deep in the faith,” she said. “His teaching and his encouragement were not only for black people, but for all people. It’s a celebration for the diocese as a whole.”

Morrison, a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Arlington, said she had first-hand experience of racism while growing up in southwest Louisiana.

“I was right there in the mix of segregation — and then integration,” she said.

She added the Memorial Mass “is a healing process for all of us, as well as for those of us who lived the 50s and the 60s.”

Donald Walker Jr., a lifelong parishioner of Our Mother of Mercy and a 20-year Knight of Peter Claver, said Bishop Fabre’s homily reminded him that “we’ve made a lot of progress, but we still have some work to do.

“Like Bishop Fabre said, we’re all made in the image and likeness of God,” he recounted.  “And once you start thinking along those lines, then you realize we’re all on a common journey. We’re called to something greater.”

Members of the Knights of Peter Claver and its Ladies Auxiliary raise their hands in prayer during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Diocesan Memorial Mass  Jan. 11 at St. Joseph Roman Parish in Arlington. (NTC/Ben Torres)Members of the Knights of Peter Claver and its Ladies Auxiliary raise their hands in prayer during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Diocesan Memorial Mass  Jan. 11 at St. Joseph Roman Parish in Arlington. (NTC/Ben Torres)
Members of the Knights of Peter Claver and its Ladies Auxiliary raise their hands in prayer during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Diocesan Memorial Mass  Jan. 11 at St. Joseph Roman Parish in Arlington. (NTC/Ben Torres)


At a reception after the Mass, Bishop Olson presented certificates and checks to the student winners of the Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest.

He told the North Texas Catholic that the annual Memorial Mass is important “because racism is one of those sins that we easily grow comfortable with and when we grow comfortable with it, we slide farther and farther away from God, who is present in our neighbor.

“The celebration here reminds us to make conscious our common humanity that is made in the image and likeness of God,” he continued, “and to appreciate the diversity of everyone.”

This year’s essay contest question was “How can Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings inspire me to be a light in today’s darkness?”

Nathan Hesse, from Sacred Heart Catholic School in Muenster, was the overall winner, with first place in the high school category. Sacred Heart students Logan Ross Mueller, placed second, and Ryenne Reiter placed third.

For the sixth-eighth grade category, Sacred Heart students Gage Campbell, earned first place and Ryan Swyrczynski placed second. Josephine Vu of St. Joseph Catholic School placed third.

In the fourth and fifth grade category, Ludmilla Saba, from Holy Family Catholic School, earned first place, and Kaitlyn Szostek, of Holy Family, placed second.

ARLINGTON — On Jan. 11, the altar and ambo at St. Joseph Parish in Arlington displayed brightly colored cloths from Ghana with designs representing a symbol for God.

Published (until 12/5/2039)
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