By now, most know the Archdiocese of Louisville’s new archbishop is Shelton J. Fabre, whom Pope Francis has handpicked from the Cajun country in southern Louisiana to lead Catholics of the Bluegrass State.
Archbishop Fabre will be installed as the 10th Bishop and fifth Archbishop of Louisville on March 30 at 2 p.m. at the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville.
Before he was Archbishop Fabre, he was Bishop Fabre, and before that he was simply Father Shelton. Father Shelton is the man Father Tim Kitzke has known the longest.
Father Kitzke, pastor of Three Holy Women Church in Milwaukee, attended seminary at Catholic University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium, alongside Archbishop Fabre. The two have known each other for 35 years and have become great friends, Father Kitzke said in a recent interview via Zoom video conferencing.
“He’s a great person,” Father Kitzke said. “Probably one of the holiest priests I know. And a great leader.”
The Holy Spirit is present within Archbishop Fabre, Father Kitzke said, which impels him to strive “to be a pastor to the people of God but also to be a pastor to his pastors.”
He sees himself as a minister to those serving the church, he said.
Father Jeffrey Waldrep, the pastor of Annunciation Church in Columbus, Miss., who has known Archbishop Fabre nearly 40 years, said the new archbishop is centered, present and committed.
“I think he has a great sense of listening to people without being judgmental,” Father Waldrep said. “I also think he is a person that values being present.”
Father Waldrep has assisted Archbishop Fabre in each of the three big moves he’s made — from Baton Rouge, La., where he ministered as a priest; to New Orleans where served as an auxiliary bishop; to the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La., where he was installed as the bishop.
“As bishop I have seen him be able to respond to hard issues at times, and people don’t feel threatened by that,” Father Waldrep said. “I’ve always really admired that. I also think he is a person that values being present. He will do whatever he needs to do and give them his full attention in the smallest of parishes to the biggest of the parishes, from the smallest need to the biggest need.”
Father Kitzke echoed Father Waldrep’s sentiment.
“He knows that any good pastor has to listen,” Father Kitzke said. “He’s going to bring two ears and not just one mouth. It’s not that he doesn’t want to speak up, but he’s consultative and collaborative but also decisive.”
Father Kitzke also noted that Archbishop Fabre has a “keen intellect.”
“What I like about him is he’s able to translate the early church teachings into the practicality of parishioners’ lives,” Father Kitzke said. “Expect him to speak firmly but also gently. … He has a great sense of the dignity of the human beings he serves.”
Those who know the prelate say he makes friends in each place he serves.
“I think Archbishop Shelton has been really good about having really close friends in every parish and diocese he’s been in and he’s very anchored in them,” Father Waldrep said. “That shows his commitment to people and how much he loves and cares for the people he’s with.”
Though he lives 12 hours away in Milwaukee, Father Kitzke joked that the archbishop has helped him make friends across the state of Louisiana because every time he visited Archbishop Fabre, they spent time with his parishioners, friends and family.
“Wherever I visited him he’s always introduced me to parishioners and we’ve always had good fun. He always involves his parishioners, there isn’t a divide there for him,” Father Kitzke added.