In a liturgy filled with Gospel music, Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre celebrated Mass for region one parishes at St. Augustine Church on West Broadway May 3. He told the congregation that it was a privilege to walk into the historic African American parish as the first African American Archbishop of Louisville.
The liturgy was the first of 11 regional welcoming Masses planned throughout the archdiocese.
In addition to St. Augustine, region one includes Christ the King, Good Shepherd, Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Martin de Porres and St. William churches.
“It’s a real joy to have been sent here to serve the church here in the Archdiocese of Louisville, a church rich in culture, a church enriched by European, African American, Latino, Native American, Asian” cultures, the archbishop said at the evening Mass. “It is my desire, to the best of my ability, to serve each one of those communities, whom I already love as brothers and sisters in Christ.
“But there’s unique privilege to walk into this church, an African American parish, as the first African American archbishop in this diocese,” said Archbishop Fabre to hearty applause.
He went on to share with the congregation that the parish where he grew up is also St. Augustine — in New Roads, La. His coat of arms includes a symbol of St. Augustine — a gold heart inflamed and pierced by two silver arrows. St. Augustine, born in 354, was an early African bishop and theologian.
He told the congregation, “Besides being joined at the table of the Word and the Eucharist, we’re also joined by a devotion to St. Augustine.”
He went on to discuss times of transition and how they can be difficult.
“In one form or another, all of us have faced transitions in life. One such transition for all of us is that we have been called to embark together upon my transfer here to Louisville to serve all of you,” he said. “We adjust best when we keep sight of the fact that it’s not just me. It’s not a me thing, but a we thing. … It’s about how all of us are affected. We, invited by Pope Francis to begin a journey in life together, we are called to enter upon the changes that such a transition in life, in the life of a diocese, calls us to embrace together.”
He thanked his listeners for the welcome he’s received and told them that he’s starting to feel “very much at home.”
Archbishop Fabre drew the congregation’s attention to the second reading from chapter three of the book of Colossians, where St. Paul tells early Christians to “put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.”
St. Paul’s words, said the archbishop, are “fighting words,” but true.
Times of transition can bring about disagreements and conflicts but as individuals struggle in such times, St. Paul “reminds us of who we are and who we must be in all such circumstances,” said Archbishop Fabre.
“We are people of faith and as people of faith, we must approach such situations as St. Paul urges us,” he said. “We must recognize and respect the human life and human dignity of every person even though we may disagree. We must always be those who seek forgiveness and give forgiveness as we journey together in mercy.”
As transition brings together individuals with different ideas, “St. Paul reminds us that love is the bond of perfection and love is the perspective from which we deal with one another. … Jesus calls us to love one another, not as I want to love. Jesus calls me to love not those whom I want to love, Jesus calls me to love as he loves,” said Archbishop Fabre.
Following the liturgy, Dr. Eliza Young, a member of Christ the King Church, said she was moved by the archbishop’s words to love one another.
“That’s so relevant. Too often we say we love but we don’t. No matter where you are there is that lack of love. We need to keep that love in front of us,” said Young.
Doris Logan, a parishioner of St. Augustine, attended the liturgy with her cousin Carol Belser. Logan said the archbishop’s homily, especially his words about forgiveness, resonated with her.
“We tend not to forgive each other, but we need to work at doing better with that because that will make us better people and a better community. In the eyes of God that (forgiveness) is very important,” said Logan.
The regional welcoming Masses will continue through the end of June. The next Mass will be celebrated Monday, May 16 at 7 p.m. at St. Rita Church, 8709 Preston Highway. All are invited to attend the Masses to welcome Archbishop Fabre.