Archbishop Shelton Joseph Fabre is in the process of saying goodbye to Bayou Country so he can say hello to the Bluegrass state.
Archbishop Fabre, who currently leads the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in southern Louisiana, will be installed as the 10th bishop and fifth Archbishop of Louisville March 30.
During a recent video interview, Archbishop Fabre said he was “overwhelmed with the practicalities of moving” more than 700 miles away. Though that will be a big change, “I look forward with great enthusiasm to getting to know the people there” in the Archdiocese of Louisville, he said.
“It’s a process of saying goodbye. It’s difficult. I want to say goodbye well so that I can say hello well and give myself totally and completely to what the Lord is calling me to” in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Archbishop Fabre was born in New Roads, La., a small town a little more than 30 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. He grew up in New Roads as the fifth of six children born to Luke and Theresa Fabre. His mother was a school teacher and his father was a brick mason.
Except for living in Belgium while he studied at the Catholic University of Louvain in Leuven, he’s lived his entire life in Louisiana. His ministry as a priest and a bishop has centered on the state known for its Mardi Gras festivities, Jazz music and Cajun and Creole cultures.
Though he thinks of this move as an “uprooting” of his life, he’s intrigued by it, too.
“If there’s an aspect of it that intrigues me and an aspect of it that I am looking forward to it’s that, to be in a totally different state and environment not temporarily but permanently,” he said. “That intrigues me and grabs my attention. Leaving Louisiana has been part of my reflection and prayer before the Lord. It doesn’t frighten me.”
As he prepares to leave, he is saying goodbye in two ways — as the diocesan leader and administrator and in a more personal way.
As a diocesan leader and administrator, this includes acknowledging what has been accomplished in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux and putting “things in place for whomever the Lord chooses as the next bishop,” he said.
“In doing that I will be able to give myself more readily to all that I’m called to embrace in Louisville,” he noted. “The two are strongly connected — saying goodbye very well so that we can give ourselves over to the journey.”
The process of putting things in place has been ongoing, Archbishop Fabre said, noting that he has the utmost confidence and trust in those who will lead the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux until a new bishop is appointed.
He said he believes that part of the role of a bishop is to prepare a diocese. During his eight years in Houma-Thibodaux, that’s what he’s been doing — not because he thought he’d be transferred, but just in case something happened to him, he said.
His diocese has “implemented what needed to be implemented and strengthened what needed to be strengthened,” he said.
Saying a personal goodbye is the most difficult.
“The full force of my goodbye is probably more affection for the people and the church and Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. It’s more gratitude for what has been than concern” for what will be, he said.
Members of Archbishop Fabre’s family say the sadness they are feeling in saying goodbye is tempered with the pride and joy they are also experiencing.
They are preparing to attend his installation as Archbishop of Louisville at 2 p.m. March 30 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville.
Monica Fabre, who is married to his younger brother Angelo Fabre, said with a laugh that their plane tickets were booked the day they found out he was becoming Archbishop of Louisville.
She said during a recent phone interview that Archbishop Fabre has always been present in her family’s life.
“There’s never been a time when we needed the bishop and he wasn’t there. We’ll miss his presence in Louisiana,” she said.
Archbishop Fabre, she said, “embodies loving-kindness” and she believes he will be present to the people of the Archdiocese of Louisville, too, she said.
“He will bring empathy and an empowering spirit. He will lead with a servant’s heart and a lion’s courage,” she said.