Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, delivers the homily during the Jan. 17 archdiocesan Mass honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Forge On In Struggle For Human Dignity, Bishop Says

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 22, 2009

Days before the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama, a standing-room-only crowd filled the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to honor the slain civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King who dreamed of racial equality.

The 25th annual Catholic celebration honoring King opened with a dramatic call to worship with the blowing of a ram’s horn and thunderous drum beatings.

Led by an honor guard of the Knights of Peter Claver, about a dozen priests, 10 deacons, New Orleans Auxiliary Bishop Shelton Fabre and Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory celebrated the Mass on Saturday, Jan. 17. It was part of a weekend of activities in the region, from a parade in downtown Atlanta to a program for young Catholics at St. Peter Claver Regional School in Decatur and an annual service with speakers at King’s former church, Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Congregants receive holy Communion from the clergy during Archdiocese of Atlanta’s annual Mass honoring the late civil rights activist and minister, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Mass is sponsored by the Office of Black Catholic Ministry. Photo By Michael Alexander

Archbishop Gregory said the Catholic celebration is a reminder to members of the archdiocesan community of their duty to serve others. People should continue the struggle for equality for all so “we might truly be one people and call ourselves (God’s) people,” he prayed.

The Mass showcased the many cultures in the Atlanta Archdiocese with gospel hymns, prayers in Korean, Dutch, French and other languages. Liturgical dancers carrying bowls of smoking incense moved down the center aisle as representatives from the Haitian community processed with the offertory gifts. The celebration is organized by the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholic Ministry.

A celebration about King isn’t just about remembering the man, but living what he preached.

Knight of Peter Claver faithful captain George Taylor stands with the honor guard as the eucharistic procession comes down the center aisle. Taylor is a member of St. John the Evangelist Church, Hapeville. Photo By Michael Alexander

Percy Bias, who worships at St. Anthony of Padua and Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, said King’s message should inspire people to get involved with their community.

“We need to do more volunteer work. We need to give back to the community. It’s not only about receiving. It’s about giving back,” he said.

Mike McGuire, who attends St. Thomas More Church, Decatur, said laws now ban discrimination, but enacting laws is not enough.

“It’s people that have to put that into action,” said McGuire.

He attended the more than two-hour celebration with his wife, Leslie, and two children, Nicholas and Sophie. “There’s still work to do,” he said.

Eula Bryant said deep job losses and the foreclosure crisis show how people need to find unity to help solve the problems.

“It’s not about color. It’s about people. We are all one. It is time to come together,” said the member of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Decatur.

Indeed, during the Mass, a special collection was held to pay the bills for the St. Francis Table, the parish Saturday outreach to the hungry. Some 750 people are now fed through the program weekly, up from 600 a few years ago.

Bishop Fabre, auxiliary bishop for the New Orleans Archdiocese, told the crowds that marking King’s legacy is a time to remember the past as a way to understand the present and have hope in the future.

“We remember so we might never forget,” he said.

“I stand in awe of people who not only spoke the words of faith, but even at the risk of their very own lives put their faith into practice,” he said.

He traced the history of the civil rights movement from its beginnings in black churches and the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the 2008 election of the first African-American as president of the United States. He said people should pray that God inspires, directs and guides the incoming president in his leadership, especially to respect all life.

There is a temptation to think that with the election of Obama and existing civil rights laws that the job is done, said Bishop Fabre. But that success does “not fully achieve the desired goal—a respect of the human dignity of each and every person,” he said.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, center, joins (l-r) Luella Chambers, 2009 planning committee member, Gregory and Juanita Baranco, 2009 History Makers of the Year recipients, Lela Long, 2009 Father Bruce Wilkinson Founders Award recipient, Charles Prejean, director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, and Father Jaime Molina Juarez, 2009 Father Bruce Wilkinson Founders Award recipient, for a post Mass photo. Photo By Michael Alexander

It is the task of people of faith to go beyond just what laws demand and “work for the conversion of hearts by going the extra mile and serving one another in love,” he said.

At the end of the Mass, the Office for Black Catholic Ministry presented its 2009 Father Bruce Wilkinson Founders Award to LaSalette Father Jaime Juarez, who is very popular with the Hispanic community that he serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Smyrna, and Lela Long of Transfiguration Church, Marietta, who is active in her parish, from serving as Mass captain to facilitating the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults.

The 2009 History Makers Award was given to Gregory and Juanita Baranco for their groundbreaking service in the public and business sectors. They started Baranco Automotive Group, which has been recognized by Black Enterprise Magazine as one of the country’s Top 100 businesses, and have served in a wide range of educational, civic and business leadership roles in the city and region.