Ministries around Holy Name Province emphasized Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of peace, nonviolence and activism during this year’s holiday commemorations. Friars and partners-in-ministry organized a variety of events, including Masses, candlelight vigils and marches to gather their communities and to pay tribute to the life and philosophies of King, who was assassinated in 1968.
Provincial Liturgy in South Carolina
St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, S.C., hosted the Provincial commemoration. Councilor David Convertino, OFM, celebrated Mass there on Jan. 18 for a gathering that was anticipated by “the whole community,” according to pastor Patrick Tuttle, OFM.
“The Mass heightened the spirit already present in the community as Fr. David richly challenged us to see an inextricably linked focus between the teaching of Dr. King and the Lord,” said Patrick. “Color, music, a detailed homily and a packed church all contributed to a fittingly diverse gathering which surely would have pleased Dr. King.”
The liturgy “was a vibrant and enlivened liturgical celebration that combined the soul of African-American spirituality with the commemoration of the life of Dr. King,” said David. “The Mass was joyful, serious in its challenge, and was followed by a wonderful reception that brought everyone together for great food, conversation and a real fondness and love for the friars and the community of St. Anthony’s Parish.”
During the gathering, tours of St. Anthony’s new school building, which opened in early 2013, were offered. Participants witnessed the effective action that has increased the graduation rate for blacks in Greenville County from 40 percent to 100 percent, and has resulted in 100 percent college admission, according to Patrick.
“We pray for the genius of African-American spiritual life to touch the whole Province and all of its ministries,” he said. “We were so grateful to have representatives from our African Ancestry Committee and Provincial Council here. What a treat for our parish. It was fun, too, to show a link between them as we introduced Councilor Fred Dilger, OFM, and his sister, Pat Filter, who is a member of St. Anthony’s.”
‘Are We There Yet?’
A friar stationed in South Carolina — Henry Fulmer, OFM, of St. Joseph Parish, Anderson — traveled to Buffalo, N.Y., to preach the homily at the Catholic Churches of Central Buffalo Vicariate’s liturgy commemorating King, held at Blessed Trinity Church.
“The theme of the Mass was ‘Rebuilding the Bridge: Answering God’s Call,’” said Henry, who explained the bridge was the one in Selma, Ala., that marchers crossed during the March 1965 demonstration for voting rights.
“Through our baptismal call, people are called to go out and preach the Gospel,” said Henry. “We should not be afraid to speak the truth.” He emphasized the importance of continuing to celebrate King and his work. “If we do not continue to tell stories of the past, people will not know where they came from and we will not learn and grow.”
Throughout his homily, he interjected the phrase “Are we there yet?” Each time, the congregation responded with a rousing “no.”
“Dr. King taught that only love can overcome hatred, bitterness and fear,” Henry told attendees. “May the struggle for social transformation continue in this generation. May all people come to believe that with perseverance, we shall overcome. Are we there yet? In order to get there, my brothers and sisters, it starts with each and every one of you.”
Interfaith Peace Walk in New York City
In New York City, Holy Name Parish co-hosted the 13th annual Martin Luther King Walk for Peace on Jan. 19. Approximately 200 people attended, including confirmation candidates, teachers, clergy, religious leaders and people living in the Upper West Side neighborhood.
The event began with a prayer service at the church before the group walked to nearby worship sites, including St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, West End Presbyterian Church and the Romemu Jewish Community, Ascension Roman Catholic Church, and Ansche Chesed Synagogue. This year’s walk was organized around a quote from the Prophet Isaiah (58:12):
“And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; You shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”
“Holy Name is part of a group of worshipping communities that regularly come together around issues of peace and justice,” said pastor Lawrence Ford, OFM. “At each stop on the walk, the host community offered a brief prayer service, joining the work of Dr. King and the prayer and outreach in which their communities are engaged. This was a really good event that brought people from different traditions together around the common issue of peace.”
Continuing to Bear Witness
Both of the Province-sponsored colleges held events on Monday to remember the civil rights leader.
In Western New York, St. Bonaventure University organized “We Bear Witness: A MLK Walk and Service” in honor of King. The interactive Witness Walk began at 7:30 p.m. at the campus’s Thomas Merton Center and flowed into the university chapel, where Jeff Carter, a retired prison chaplain and pastor of Ephesus Ministries in Buffalo, gave a keynote speech. Participants also prayed together to bear witness to the many injustices that exist in our world today, according to the university.
Outside of Albany, N.Y., students and staff of Siena College channeled King’s message of nonviolence as they participated in a candlelight vigil on Martin Luther King Day to remember the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks.
Chaplain Lawrence Anderson, OFM, joined student leaders in reciting a prayer called the “Decalogue of Assisi for Peace” during the ceremony, held at the campus’s newly-constructed grotto.
“As people of faith, it is important that we come together in solidarity to pray for an end to violence in all of its forms,” said Lawrence. “Siena’s mission is deeply rooted in the Franciscan call to bring light where there is darkness and hope where there is despair. This is a small way for members of the Siena community to offer themselves as instruments of peace.”
In Pennsylvania, Patrick Sieber, OFM, took part in an annual demonstration that protests materialism and racism. It was held Jan. 17 at Lockheed Martin in Upper Merion Township, roughly 30 miles north of Juniper Friary in Philadelphia, where Patrick lives.
In New Jersey, the Student Leaders’ Von Nieda Park Task Force, affiliated with St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Camden, led the 6th annual Martin Luther King Day of Community Organizing. This event shows the importance of gathering people affected by an issue together with allies to bring about change. The students continue to use their community organizing skills to improve their neighborhood. Photos from this year’s event appear on the student leaders’ Facebook page.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province. Research for this story was provided by Jocelyn Thomas, communications director.
Editor’s note: Information about community organizing can be found in the Justice and Peace section of the HNP website.