Bishop Shelton Joseph Fabre, a native of Louisiana, has been named the 10th Bishop and fifth Archbishop of Louisville. He was appointed by Pope Francis on Feb. 8.
Archbishop-designate Fabre, 58, currently leads the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in southern Louisiana. He will succeed Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who has led the Archdiocese of Louisville since 2007.
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Kurtz, who turned 75 Aug. 18, 2021. As required by canon law, he turned in his resignation to the pope when he reached 75.
The archbishop-designate will be installed as Archbishop of Louisville at 2 p.m. on March 30 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville.
Archbishop Fabre’s episcopal motto is “Comfort My People,” which he chose when he was ordained a bishop in 2007. In his first appointment, as Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans, he helped with rebuilding efforts that followed the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He was appointed Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux in 2013. In August of 2021, his diocese and other parts of southern Louisiana suffered devastation wrought by Hurricane Ida.
Archbishop Fabre said in a Feb. 8 statement that the words of his motto “are dear to my heart because they capture what I have always desired to do as a bishop, as a pastor of souls. I sincerely believe our Lord is communicating these words to His people right now.”
He was appointed a bishop by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI. He currently serves on the board of Catholic Relief Services and as the chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. He led the writing of the U.S. Bishops’ most recent pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts — The Enduring Call to Love,” which was approved and published in 2018.
Archbishop Fabre discussed the pastoral letter on racism with about 150 people in the Archdiocese of Louisville last March when he led an Archdiocesan Leadership Institute on the subject.
During the event, conducted online due to the pandemic, he centered his talk on “Witnessing to the dignity of the human person as an antidote to the grave sin of racism.”
He offered his listeners — including archdiocesan and parish leaders — six ways to respond to racism. He told them, “The work is hard and the work is slow, but the work must be done. It’s our call as a church and our task as disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Fabre is the fifth of six children. He grew up attending school in New Roads, La., and graduated in 1981 as valedictorian of Catholic High School of Pointe Coupée. He entered St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, La., graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1985.
He received additional formation at the American College of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium, while studying at the Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven. He was awarded a bachelor of religious studies degree in 1987 and a master of religious studies degree in 1989 from Katholieke Universiteit.
Archbishop Fabre was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Baton Rouge on Aug. 5, 1989, and went on to serve as a pastor and associate pastor. He also served as a chaplain at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Defender of the Bond for the diocese’s Marriage Tribunal and Dean of the Northwest Deanery of the diocese.
He also served on the diocesan Priest Council, College of Consultors, School Board and Clergy Personnel Board. He served as chairman of pastoral planning and director of the Office of Black Catholics.
As the Archbishop of Louisville, he will shepherd about 156,000 Catholics in 24 counties of central Kentucky, from the Ohio River to the Tennessee border. The archdiocese, which dates to 1808, has 110 parishes that cover 8,124 miles. About 20,000 students are served by 48 schools from kindergarten to high school.