Archbishop described as a
‘bridge over troubled water’

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre is seen in this 2007 family photo with his parents, the late Luke Jr. and Theresa Fabre, seated, and his siblings with their spouses, from left, the late Gerald Fabre, with his wife Barbara Fabre, Dianne Signater with her late husband Lionel Signater and Angelo Fabre with his wife Monica Fabre. Archbishop Fabre will be installed as Archbishop of Louisville March 30 at the Kentucky International Convention Center. (Photo Special to The Record)

From the time he was a young boy, Archbishop Shelton Joseph Fabre was a beacon of light and “a bridge over troubled water,” according to his family.

He was already quietly leading, inspiring and uniting those around him, they said.

Archbishop Fabre currently leads the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in southern Louisiana. He will be installed as the 10th Bishop and fifth Archbishop of Louisville on March 30.

He was born and raised in New Roads, La., a small town a little more than 30 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. There he grew up with his mother, a school teacher, his father, a brick mason, and his five siblings.

His younger brother Angelo Fabre recalled during a recent interview that growing up, Archbishop Fabre was the quiet child who “kept to himself” and gave his parents “no fuss, no attitude.”

Angelo Fabre, who is two years younger, said his older brother was “very smart, generous and kind” and even at a young age it was clear he had a “servant’s heart.”

That servant’s heart was formed in what the new archbishop described as a “house full of love and activities.”

Archbishop Fabre said during a wide-ranging interview late last month that the Fabre family life revolved around St. Augustine Church.

His parents were of modest means, but, “We always had what we needed. Sometimes we got the things we wanted,” he said. “We were provided for. We were educated. Things were not always easy; I know my parents did struggle financially, but that didn’t deprive us.”

Most importantly, he said, he always knew his parents loved him.

Archbishop Fabre recalled a priest asking his father which one of his children he loved the best. He said the answer had a lasting impact.

“My father’s answer was ‘whoever needed it at the time.’ My father was very present to us individually,” he said.

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre is seen in this file photo accepting his diploma during his 1981 graduation from Catholic High School of Pointe Coupée, where he was valedictorian. Archbishop Fabre will be installed as the 10th Bishop and fifth Archbishop of Louisville March 30. (Photo Special to The Record)

While life in New Roads was good growing up, tragedy came calling, too.

When Archbishop Fabre was 10 years old, his brother Luke drowned at the age of 20.

Even back then, Archbishop Fabre demonstrated a natural skill to be present and bring comfort, according to his family.

Monica Fabre, who is married to Angelo Fabre, said her husband has shared how his brother comforted him after that tragedy.

“My husband was a little boy and couldn’t understand it. Shelton would never leave him alone and never left him,” said Monica Fabre. “Even at the age of 10, he was using God’s love and God’s sovereignty to explain to his baby brother that God’s will shall be done, but that if they kept the faith, God would lead them through.”

She explained that Archbishop Fabre did the same when they lost a brother in 1980 to leukemia and then again in 2019 when another brother died suddenly of a heart condition. Their mother was really affected by the loss of a third son, she said.

“He was able to be that beacon of light for his entire family, especially his mother. … It was amazing how his kind words and gentle touch reassured his family that God’s love and sovereignty will make it better,” said Monica Fabre. “He is a bridge over troubled water and the catalyst that allowed the family to mourn and weep, but with hope.”

Archbishop Fabre’s ability to inspire and bring people together was evident, too, during his school years, according to his sister-in-law.
He and his siblings attended Catholic High School of Pointe Coupée, where he excelled academically and became the school’s first African American valedictorian in 1981.

Monica Fabre noted that the archbishop’s academic achievements alone may have helped pave the way for other African American students. His academic achievements “dispelled the myths and beliefs that being a child of color you couldn’t excel,” she said.

Her husband shared with her how Archbishop Fabre was never bothered by the typical behaviors of his peers, such as the tendency to form cliques. However, when he saw divisions based on racial differences “it was Shelton who kept the peace at his school. That was just in his nature,” said Monica Fabre.

Archbishop Fabre’s character is reflective of the family he comes from, she said.

Monica Fabre noted that her husband introduced her to his family on a day their father was having open-heart surgery close to three decades ago.
The family immediately embraced her and her two young sons from a previous marriage, she said.

“It’s been family from that point on. … That’s the love I have. It’s still playing such a strong part in my marriage,” she said. “The word of God tells us that you can tell a tree from the fruit it bears. His character is a direct link to the tree that bore him.”

Strong faith and family ties shaped Archbishop Fabre’s life as he grew up, according to his first cousin Paula Fabre.

Both of Paula Fabre’s parents and Archbishop Fabre’s parents were siblings.

“Two sisters married two brothers, so we had the same sets of grandparents, aunts and uncles,” said Paula Fabre. The families lived in the same neighborhood. Archbishop Fabre lived next door to his grandparents.

“Our life was going to church, but not only that we attended, but we were involved,” she said. St. Augustine was the “center of our lives. … Our faith was at the front of everything we did.”

Paula Fabre is 14 years older than Archbishop Fabre, so she said she’s “known him since he was born” and she was close to his parents. The families got together often and she remembers all the kids riding their bikes back and forth to visit each other.

They’d participate in church bazaars. And First Eucharist and confirmation were celebrated as “enormous events.”

Paula Fabre said the upbringing that formed the children in the Fabre families has helped them take their faith through life.

“We understand how to treat others and project God’s love,” she said.

Paula Fabre said she is proud of Archbishop Fabre and is excited to attend his installation.

The celebration will take place at 2 p.m. March 30 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville.

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