Day of reflection celebrates cultural gifts

Members of the St. Cecilia Swahili Choir sang during the opening Mass of the 37th annual African American Catholic Day of Reflection at St. Martin de Porres Church April 13. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Gospel songs sung in Swahili and the sound of African drums filled St. Martin de Porres Church as more than 200 people from the Archdiocese of Louisville and the Diocese of Lexington gathered for a day of reflection. 

The 37th annual African American Catholic Day of Reflection began the morning of April 13 with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre.

Greeting the multicultural group, which included Black, African American, African and white Catholics, the archbishop said they gathered to celebrate the “Risen One and the many cultural gifts we’ve been given to share with the church.” 

The day also included various workshops as well as activities for children and youth at the Catholic Enrichment Center, located next door to the parish on West Broadway. Among those who attended were Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, who participated in a workshop on racism near the end of the day. 

It was organized by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry (OMM) in collaboration with the Diocese of Lexington’s Commission for African American Catholic Concerns. 

M. Annette Mandley-Turner, executive director of the OMM, said she is happy to collaborate with the Diocese of Lexington, which was represented at the first day of reflection close to four decades ago. The Diocese of Owensboro was also represented at that first event.

The congregation sang the opening hymn, “Every Praise,” during a Mass at the 37th annual African American Catholic Day of Reflection at St. Martin de Porres Church April 13. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

“Coming together today helps to refocus us as a church,” said Mandley-Turner. “Though they are at a distance, we are of one accord.” 

She said the day is designed for parishioners to “grow more deeply in our faith and celebrate the goodness of God as people of God — not just people from the Diocese of Lexington or people from the Archdiocese of Louisville.”

When Black Catholics join together “it gives them hope. … It gives us strength in knowing that we can affirm one another, celebrate one another and learn from one another,” she said.

The day’s theme was “Keeping the Flame Burning,” and it focused on evangelization.

In his homily, Archbishop Fabre said humility is an important aspect of evangelization. He drew the congregation’s attention to the Gospel reading from the Book of Luke, in which Jesus dines at the home of a Pharisee.

The archbishop explained that the Pharisees were a group that lacked humility and placed “meticulous adherence” to religious laws above mercy and “matters of the heart.” 

Audrey Penman played the African drum during the opening Mass for the 37th annual African American Catholic Day of Reflection at St. Martin de Porres Church April 13. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Members of the Pharisees kept a close eye on Jesus, hoping to find a reason to accuse him, yet “Christ desired to bring them into a relationship with him. … Jesus’ presence at the home of the Pharisee for dinner is an example of his outreach to all,” said Archbishop Fabre.  

Jesus tried to make the Pharisees see beyond blind observance to the law, the archbishop noted. He invited them — and invites individuals today — to “view situations with the heart.” 

Doing so requires humility, however, said Archbishop Fabre. 

Christ is the light of the world, he said, and “he invites us to keep the flame of faith burning in front of others.”

“We’re the bearers of the flame. … We need to recognize the dignity of every person when we evangelize,” he said. “Jesus sends us as those whose life has been enlightened by him. … We accept others and accompany them to the light.”

The congregation, including families with youth, sang during the opening Mass at the 37th annual African American Catholic Day of Reflection at St. Martin de Porres Church April 13. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)
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