Ministries Bear Witness to King’s Message of Activism

Johann Cuervo Around the Province

Kevin Mullen speaks to a crowded room during St. Francis of Assisi Parish’s “Hope in a Time of Anxiety” event held in New York City. (Photo courtesy of Ramon Razon)

Holy Name Province ministries celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of justice and unity with a variety of community events. Friars and partners-in-ministry organized activities, including walks and open discussions with their communities to pay tribute to the life of Dr. King.

Peace Events in New York City
In New York City, Holy Name of Jesus Parish participated in the 15th annual peace walk honoring the civil rights leader on Jan. 16. Marchers gathered around the church on West 96th Street and listened to an introduction and prayer in remembrance of Dr. King’s legacy. The route included sites of various religious institutions on the Upper West Side. Participants were encouraged to become more active within their community, in particular, to join the efforts of the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing organization, to find affordable housing plan for the elderly.

Later that day, Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, was joined by the friars of St. Francis of Assisi Parish on West 31st Street, as he hosted a discussion and listening session called “Hope in a Time of Anxiety” The event was an opportunity to “share anxieties, listen to one another and be guided by the wisdom of the Catholic and Franciscan traditions as our nation moves to inaugurate a new administration,” according to the parish’s website.

“With ample time and well-designed group instructions, participants engaged with each other by listening to the concerns and hopes of their group members,” said Ramon Razon, OFM. “They shared their own anxieties and sources of hope as they confront the difficulties that have resulted from the nation’s socio-political conflicts in the past 18 months.”

“Kevin began by framing the event on the three essential reasons why the Catholic Church engages with the social order of a sovereign nation according to the Second Vatican Council: (1) respect and uplifting of human dignity, (2) defense and the protection of human rights and (3) the responsibility to contribute in making meaning of our human activity.”

Attendees discuss their concerns during “Hope in a Time of Anxiety.” (Photo courtesy of Ramon)

Ramon mentioned in a post on the Holy Name Province JPIC Facebook page that the program organizers chose questions posed by various groups, to which Kevin responded. “One asked, ‘Should we expect concrete response from our Church leaders and what should we expect?’ To which Kevin replied, ‘Yes, you should and Church leaders must have their eyes wide open to all that is happening in order to have a broader vision when confronting the issues we are facing today.’”

“I was glad to participate in this event, which helped address the anxieties that so many people are experiencing, especially over the last 18 months,” said Kevin. “My role was to put the situation into the context of Catholic social teaching to help people respond to the anxiety of the times.”

More than 100 people attended, Kevin said, from both St. Francis Parish and Holy Name of Jesus Parish on the Upper West Side.

Timothy Shreenan, OFM, read a section from the speech Pope Francis gave last year on his audience in the United States Congress and Andrew Reitz, OFM, pastor, gave a blessing to conclude the session.

Commemoration in the Carolinas
In South Carolina, St. Anthony Parish in Greenville, along with the Monastery of St. Clare, held a public reading on Jan. 16 of “The Letter From a Birmingham Jail” written by Dr. King in 1963 while in jail to respond to eight local white clergymen who had denounced his nonviolent protest. He wrote a letter to the Birmingham News explaining why he had broken the law. “I am here because injustice is here,” he wrote. “I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.'”

The reading followed by a discussion and Mass according to Patrick Tuttle, OFM, pastor, who said, “many expressed disappointment that so little has changed in South Carolina. We have active redistricting of voting lines to prevent black people from voting collectively on anything, very segregated churches and schools, and 54 percent graduation rates from high school.”

The Province’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. took place on Jan. 15 at Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, N.C., where Provincial Councilor Joseph Nangle, OFM, celebrated Mass and, in his homily, urged everyone to “speak against violence and injustices.”

“Our celebration of Dr. King’s life cannot be that of spectators, of admirers, or of indifferent bystanders. The prophetic word of this man must be complemented by a word from us at this ominous moment in our nation’s history,” Joseph said of the civil rights leader, who was slain in 1968.

He reiterated the Church’s responsibility in this regard adding, “We follow Jesus, who was sentenced to death and executed because in his teaching and actions he became a serious threat to the corrupt socio-religious status quo of his time and place. Prophets down through the centuries, including Martin Luther King, have consistently acted from a religious motive – standing against institutionalized sinful regimes.”

Each year, the Province holds a special Mass in commemoration of Martin Luther King at a different HNP location.

In Pennsylvania, Patrick Sieber, OFM, participated in the 40th protest of the manufacture of weapons at Lockheed Martin in King of Prussia. On Jan. 14, “our bell of peace tolled and we shared in a litany of remembrance drawn from Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech,” said Patrick.

These walks, prayers and discussions united the ministries of Holy Name Province in remembering Dr. King’s legacy, which reflects Franciscan values.

As Joseph said on Sunday, “We are the workers, not master builders, ministers not messiahs. We are the prophets of a future not our own.”

— Johann Cuervo is communications assistant for Holy Name Province.  Research provided by Jocelyn Thomas.

Related Links