In the presence of close to 3,000 people, including his family, visiting prelates and other clergy and religious, Archbishop Shelton Joseph Fabre was installed as the 10th Bishop and fifth Archbishop of Louisville at a celebration at the Kentucky International Convention Center March 30.
Archbishop Fabre expressed gratitude for being in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
“I’m delighted to be here on this day of grace as I begin this journey with the Christian faithful of the particular church of Louisville,” said Archbishop Fabre.
The archbishop drew laughter from the congregation as he shared with them that he’d been practicing the correct pronunciation of “Louisville.”
“What a blessing it is for me to be called to serve in this wonderful archdiocese. … I express great gratitude for your incredibly warm welcome and the simple but profound ways you’ve already shared the many blessings of this archdiocese with me.”
Archbishop Fabre also expressed gratitude for his predecessor Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, saying “In a most profound way, I thank my venerable brother Archbishop Joseph Kurtz for his faithful service here. … I’m honored to be given the opportunity to continue and to build on your good work. As you begin your retirement, be assured of our prayers as we look forward to your continuing presence and ministry with us. Please continue to answer your phone when my number pops up, because you might be seeing it a lot,” Archbishop Fabre said, again drawing laughter from the congregation.
The archbishop also thanked the members of his family present at the celebration for their “love and ongoing support” and said he was holding in “special prayers” the deceased members of his family — his mother Theresa, his father Luke and his brothers Luke, Gerald and Clyde.
Archbishop Fabre went on to discuss the connections he’s already made with some of those who serve in the archdiocese and how grateful he was for them.
Of the staff, he said, “I’ve come to know of the great commitment and great efforts for the church here.” The archbishop said he also already felt a sense of camaraderie with his priests.
Most importantly, he said, he’d like to acknowledge Jesus Christ.
“It is he whom we worship today, it is he who has brought us together in Louisville, it is he whom we follow. Today’s installation Mass is indeed about a particular person. However, today is not about me. Today is about our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest,” said Archbishop Fabre to applause from the congregation.
The new archbishop drew the congregation’s attention to the Gospel reading from the Book of Luke, which tells the story of Peter and his friends, who’d fished all night but caught nothing.
“From the shallows near the shore, Jesus, in essence, tells them to trust in him. … Jesus challenges them to fish the deep, to go where they would not usually go. ‘Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.’
“In response, Peter is honest and shares with Jesus the disappointing efforts of a nightlong effort. But at the command of the Lord, Peter lowers the nets in a place where he would normally not fish,” said the archbishop. “What strikes me is that Peter places his trust in a person, not in an invitation or an intuition. Peter trusts Jesus, he trusts a person, and Peter leaves everything because of the person.”
Archbishop Fabre shared with the congregation that he, like Peter, trusts Jesus.
“I trust Jesus. I trust the person. I go off in the company of a person. The call is about a person, the person of Jesus Christ, and not merely about the destination.”
He said that he’s grateful for the “love, support and kindness” shown to him during his episcopal ministry in southern Louisiana. It was in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux at St. Luke Church where he met a man named Charles Mack, a “patriarch of the community.” Mack, he said, taught him that “ ‘Life is a lot less about what you are facing and a lot more about where you are looking.’ No matter what we face in life, I have learned the importance of keeping my eyes on the Lord,” said the archbishop.
The wisdom Mack shared with him is timely, because “we are facing unique circumstances,” the archbishop said, including:
- A new future together
- The challenges of COVID-19
- The effects of past hurts of injustice and disregard for human life and dignity through racism
- Aggressive secularism
- Assaults on religious freedom
- Need for healing the woundedness of marriage and family life
Archbishop Fabre said that the local church, like Peter in the Gospel of Luke, is called to look to Christ as it faces those challenges. The Gospel reading also notes that Peter didn’t face his challenges alone, he said. Peter had James and John, the sons of Zebedee, to help pull in the great catch of fish.
“Peter did not do it alone. We are in this together,” he said, drawing applause from the congregation.
“I need you with me. I need your help to see the movement of God and to hear his voice, to build upon our past accomplishments and to rebuild relationships that may have been hurt in the past,” said Archbishop Fabre.
“I need your voice to speak to me the needs of our family that spans 24 counties and 8,000 square miles. We are the Archdiocese of Louisville. The archdiocese is not a building on Poplar Level Road. The archdiocese is its people; it’s you and me and all of us together,” he said. “We stand on the precipice of an exciting future, however, the future will largely be determined by us standing together and keeping our eyes focused on him who unites us rather than on the things that divide us.”
Adriene Taylor-Mitchell, a member of St. Martin de Porres Church who attended the installation, said Archbishop Fabre’s homily gave her “goosebumps.”
“Seeing an African-American archbishop is something to raise your hands up and say Alleluia. It’s good,” she said. “And like he said, we’ll work together in faith. The ‘we’ part is what got to me. He said it’s not about him but about him above.”
Patricia Cain, a member of St. William Church, said the installation was “exhilarating. It gave me chills.”
“The installation of the archbishop was so beautiful,” she said. “What I like is he specifically pointed out his leadership as a servant. It was about all of us. He didn’t come here as the big guy who will tell you what to do. What he said reminded me of Jesus. ‘We are all in this together.’ It was profound.”
Therese Allen, a member of Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., said, “I’m so happy about Archbishop Fabre, because I think he was sent by God. I prayed that God would send us someone from the south and that his name would be Joseph.”
She said that when he was announced as the new archbishop on Feb. 8, she said “He’s the one, a people-loving, comforting” archbishop. “He’s here to serve our needs. I’m so thrilled.”
Kim Telesford-Mapp, a member of St. Martin de Porres Church, said she was “thrilled to be here for this historic occasion.”
Telesford-Mapp — who serves as the chair of her parish’s social justice and social concerns committee — noted that Archbishop Fabre oversaw the drafting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2018 pastoral document on racism “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.” She sees in him a leader who will take an interest in the issues she’s concerned about, she said.
“He understands issues of racism and inequality and he won’t be shy to address them,” she said.