From shock to excitement, Archdiocese of Louisville leaders expressed a range of emotions after they worshipped at an early morning Mass Feb. 8 with the newly appointed Archbishop of Louisville Shelton Joseph Fabre, the fifth Archbishop of Louisville.
The simple liturgy, a typical daily Mass with no music or extra ceremony, drew regular Holy Family Church Mass-goers, as well as archdiocesan agency directors and a handful of clergy, who were asked to worship with their newly-appointed leader.
Father Jeffrey Shooner, pastor of St. Patrick and St. Boniface churches, said he experienced a “wellspring of emotions” after hearing the news. He couldn’t stop smiling, but he was also “filled with gratitude for the years” of Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz’s leadership.
Archbishop Fabre will succeed Archbishop Kurtz who led the Archdiocese of Louisville since 2007.
“I am excited and filled with hope for Archbishop Fabre. … This is a great assignment from Pope Francis and I’m looking forward for Bishop Fabre to be our shepherd,” said Father Shooner.
Father Shooner and other priests on the college of consultors — a group of priests tasked with advising the archbishop — met with Archbishop Fabre after the Mass.
Among them was Father Anthony Chandler, who leads the archdiocese’s Vocation Office. He expressed excitement too, saying Archbishop Fabre will be a “formidable spiritual character in the local church.”
“I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve known of his great intellect and his great work.”
Archbishop Fabre led the writing of the U.S. Bishops’ most recent pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts — The Enduring Call to Love” as chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism.
“He’s a man of sincerity, with a big heart,” Father Chandler said. “He’ll be good for us. Realizing every local church has challenges, he’ll work with those with great grace and prayer.”
Father Paul Beach, pastor of St. Martin of Tours Church, said the announcement is an opportunity to look back and to look forward.
Looking forward, Father Beach said he is “pleased, hopeful and happy.” Father Beach said that after the meeting with the college of consultors, “I feel very good. I was very impressed with his comments and his conversations with us. It was very uplifting and moving to meet him. He seems like a very pastoral man.”
Looking back he said he appreciated Archbishop Kurtz’s time in the archdiocese. “This is an opportunity to look back and appreciate what a wonderful archbishop he’s been,” said Father Beach.
What struck him the most is how emotional Archbishop Fabre became during the press conference, when he spoke of leaving the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese, the diocese he’s led for close to nine years.
“I can tell he has a deep love for people there. Anyone who loves his diocese that much will be a wonderful person to have and someone who will put his heart and soul into this. … You can’t hope for anything better than that,” said Father Beach.
Deacon James Turner, who serves as permanent deacon at St. Martin de Porres Church, said he is “overwhelmed” and “shocked” by the appointment.
“I never thought the pope would appoint an African American bishop, but I can appreciate the pope’s appreciation of the gifts and talents of our Black bishops,” he said.
“Archbishop Kurtz and his gifts and talents and leadership has blessed us over the years. I’m looking forward to Bishop Fabre sharing his gifts and talents. I’m sure the archdiocese will be blessed,” Deacon Turner said.
He said he believes Archbishop Fabre’s appointment will help the Archdiocese of Louisville move forward in many ways, including the issue of race.
“Being one of the authors on the U.S. bishops’ pastoral on racism, he has a great perspective and I’m looking forward to him sharing his wisdom to help us bridge the gap and eradicate racism in the archdiocese so all our people will benefit and freely express their gifts and talents,” he said.
Deacon Turner added that he’s willing to “offer anything I can to support him in his service to our archdiocese.”
Annette Mandley-Turner, who serves as executive director of the archdiocese’s Office of Multicultural Ministry, expressed excitement, saying Archbishop Fabre will be a “unifying force” for the members of the faithful in the archdiocese.
When she first heard the news she said she was excited and wanted to share the news.
“ ‘Who do I call first?’ ”she asked rhetorically.
“This is a new chapter in the history book of our archdiocese. I really feel he will be a unifying force for the people here and he will help us to have a change of heart in order for something new to occur,” she said. “This will set a precedent for the future. Daniel Rudd would be so happy because we are fulfilling his dream, not just as Black Catholics but the church. Daniel Rudd spoke of a whole church; he did not fragment. He said the whole church needed to embrace the necessary change for all to be included.” Rudd, who was born into slavery in 1854 in Bardstown, Ky., went on to become a civil rights leader and prominent journalist operating the first Black-owned newspaper, the American Catholic Tribune, in Cincinnati, in 1886.
Eva Gonzalez, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Hispanic Ministry, said Archbishop Fabre’s appointment to the Archdiocese of Louisville comes at a “great time.”
“I know this will be great,” she said. “I feel such emotion in my heart. I’m happy for all of us, especially the African American community.”
Gonzalez, like Deacon Turner, hopes Archbishop Fabre’s appointment will lead to greater race relations.
“I think this will mean we might see a moving forward to embrace the diversity that’s in our midst,” she said.
Dr. Mary Beth Bowling, superintendent of Catholic Schools in the archdiocese, shared in the excitement that came with Archbishop Fabre’s announcement and said she looks forward to getting to know him. “I was touched by his homily and his focus on the heart,” said Bowling. “It was a very poignant message and struck me as very inspirational.”
As an educator, Bowling said she hopes to gain some insights from Archbishop Fabre.
“Anytime you work with new people you gain new perspective. I look forward to his new perspective to inform the Office of Catholic Schools. He’s worked with Catholic schools before and he may have different insights,” she said.
Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, who leads Catholic Charities of Louisville, expressed her excitement saying Archbishop Fabre will “bring a new perspective” to the Archdiocese of Louisville. She said she’s looking forward to sharing with him the “great work” the agency has been doing as well as getting his input.
“I’m proud of the work we’re doing, but I look forward to hearing from him how we can do better,” she said.
Archbishop Fabre currently leads the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in southern Louisiana. He will be installed as Archbishop of Louisville at 2 p.m. March 30 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville.