Father Boniface Hardin influenced local African American community

By JESSICA ABLE
Record Staff Writer

Benedictine Father Boniface Hardin

Benedictine Father Boniface Hardin, who died March 24 at an Indianapolis nursing home, had a profound impact on the Archdiocese of Louisville — especially the local African American Catholic community. The native of Bardstown, Ky., was 78 years old.

Father Hardin was instrumental in drawing attention to religious life and influenced numerous young men discerning a call to the priesthood, according to M. Annette Mandley-Turner, executive director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry.

“Father Hardin entered religious life when it was difficult for people of color to do so,” she explained. “He wanted to share his life, his stewardship with the world and church.”

Mandley-Turner noted that Father Hardin was equipped to do anything he wanted in terms of a career, but he chose to answer God’s call and serve as a priest.

“His call became a visible sign that the church, that Louisville, that our archdiocese, prepared young people to serve the Church,” she said.

In 2010 — the Year for Priests — the Office of Multicultural Ministry presented Father Hardin with the Acacia Award, an honor that recognizes an individual for service to the African American Catholic community.

In his acceptance speech, Father Hardin praised the multicultural office for their efforts but also challenged them to reach out to the Vietnamese, Haitian and Korean communities as well as to the youth in rural areas, Mandley-Turner said.

“He was always rallying the local, regional and national church to truly be about unity and justice,” she said “He believed if you wanted peace, you had to work for justice.”

Father Hardin was a noted leader in the social justice and civil rights movement and was known for his desire to ensure all people had the opportunity to excel, Mandley-Turner said.

This desire was evident in the educational institution he founded in Indianapolis in 1969 — the Martin Center. The center was the precursor of Martin University. Its mission was to serve low-income, minority and adult learners.

“Anytime you would talk with Father Boniface, he left you on a high and with some charge that would propel you beyond who you are. He was a real wholistic person,” she said.
For many people Father Hardin was larger than life, Mandley-Turner said.

“His simplistic appreciation for life certainly put him at a different level,” she said.

In addition to education, Father Hardin was also passionate about his role in the civic arena.

“He was a civic servant who used all the catechesis he received as a young man through adulthood. It was very much a part of his lived experiences. He was able to integrate what was going on in the faith perspective with what was going on in the public, civic arena,” she said.

Mandley-Turner said Father Hardin will be remembered for his willingness to give and that his legacy could best be summed up in his own words.

“He would say ‘If you’re sensitive to other people, it doesn’t matter about your race or what religion you are from. There is but one God of Abraham, and when we are learning, it does not matter to me; I have to give, I have to share,’ ” she said.

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