Ministries Honor Memory of Martin Luther King Jr.

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Quoting Abraham Lincoln’s words from more than a century ago, Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, spoke last week at the Province’s Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration of today’s need for justice and civility.

“Dr. King took incredible risks and gave his life for his ideals,” John said of the civil rights leader who was slain in 1968. “He spent his life seeking justice.”

John added, “Dr. King sought to overcome injustices. He understood what it meant to be a disciple of Christ.”

John gave the homily at the 10 a.m. Mass at the Church of St. Mary on Broadway, in Providence, raising awareness for social justice today. “We’re called upon to bring light into darkness.”

He reiterated Lincoln’s famous words: “My concern is not whether God is on our side, but whether we’re on God’s side.” That January 1861 speech marked the beginning of the Civil War, according to John, who added, “We are all called upon to be people of God.”

“This year is the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history,” John said. “Interestingly, both sides of the war thought God was on its side.”

The Province’s 2011 celebration of Martin Luther King took place at one of the newest HNP parishes, according to Frank Sevola, OFM, pastor of Church of St. Mary on Broadway.

“It’s always nice to visit our ministries and to meet the people,” said John, who last year celebrated the holiday Mass at the University of Georgia’s Catholic Center.

Franciscans Boost Attendance
More than 500 people worship at St. Mary Church, more than five times as many as when the friars began caring for the parish nearly five years ago. “Creating the Franciscan spirit at the Church of St. Mary is still a work in progress,” Frank said in an article in the winter 2010 issue of The Anthonian magazine.

At a reception following Mass, Filomena Lupo, a parishioner since 1975, said, “The Franciscans have revitalized this parish.”

The Province took over St. Mary’s in 2006, after half a century of ministry in downtown Providence at St. Francis Chapel. Today, in addition to the parish and the chapel, the friars offer two ministries: the Poverello Center, which provides food and wellness programs, and the Bread and Blessings sandwich program

“Providence is the best kept secret in our Province,” said Frank with a smile. “We do so much here with wonderful volunteers and staff members.”

Scott Brookbank, OFM, is director of spiritual life, and Charles O’Connor, OFM, directs worship. Michael Joyce, OFM, who lives with the three friars, assists at the parish and does prison ministry.

Each year, the HNP African-American Ministry Committee chooses a different location for the official Provincial  commemoration, said Neil O’Connell, OFM, who traveled from New York to represent the committee.

Commemoration in the Parishes
Around the Province, Holy Name ministries commemorated the holiday with a variety of services and community events.

In New York City, Neil joined with other Franciscan men and women in the Central Harlem Vicariate Annual Inter-faith Observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Jan. 14 at St. Charles Borromeo Church. He delivered the petition for the deceased for the General Intercessions. Steven Pavignano, OFM, of All Saints Church on East 129th Street, also participated.

On Jan. 17, the friars of Holy Name Parish joined with community members of nearby churches on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the annual March for Peace, which began and ended at the church on West 96th Street. “Economic justice” was the unifying theme of the day.

In Camden, N.J., St. Anthony of Padua Parish was at the center of events in the city on the holiday, according to Jud Weiksnar, OFM, pastor.

“One event had been in the plans since last year,” said Jud, referring to the second annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Community Organizing. While other churches and organizations spent the day in community service, St. Anthony did community organizing. “While there are thousands of places that make the holiday into a day of service, we are the only place in the country to hold a MLK Day of community organizing,” Jud said. “It was a great success, with more than 80 people in attendance, including college students, long-time Camden residents, immigrants, students from our school, parishioners, college professors, curious suburbanites, clergy from all around Camden, and community organizers from Camden Churches Organized for People.”

Karl Koenig, OFM, gave a talk on “Martin Luther King — An American Clergyman, A Faith-based Troublemaker.” Jud spoke on “Service vs. Organizing.”

“My main point was that community service is a good thing, but if it is the first thing that we associate with Martin Luther King, we are doing his legacy a grave disservice,” said Jud of his presentation. “Younger generations especially might think of King only in terms of getting a day off from school to volunteer at a soup kitchen, and never know of King’s message of radical non-violence and his challenging of unjust structures,” said Jud.

St. Paul Parish in Wilmington, Del., where Todd Carpenter, OFM, is pastor, celebrated the day with the third annual March for Racial Harmony and Non-Violence. Approximately 150 persons took part, mostly grammar school students from Epiphany School. The Wilmington Peacekeepers were on hand, as well as city council representatives and parishioners. “We marched for approximately one mile in rather cold weather, said Michael Tyson, OFM, adding “better weather would have had a better turnout.”  Marchers chanted refrains such as “No to Drugs, Yes to Life” and ang songs such as “We Shall Overcome,” The march ended with a prayer service in the church.

mlk-rIn Greenville, S.C., Patrick Tuttle, OFM, delivered the sacred scripture for the city-wide Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Dream Weekend” diversity banquet on Jan. 14. Patrick, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church, is shown in the photo collage behind the image above, with youth minister Benedict Kelly and Coach Herman Boone of the “Remember the Titans” film starring Denzel Washington as the coach.

Observances at the Colleges
In Loudonville, N.Y, the Siena College community held an anti-prejudice workshop for middle and high school students on Jan. 14. The program, called STOP: Students Together Opposing Prejudice, was run by A World of Difference Institute of the Anti-Defamation League.

St. Bonaventure University in Western New York commemorates the civil rights leader on Jan. 27 with a march and a lecture. Dr. Jason Young, a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, will discuss “25 Years of Celebrating the Life of Martin Luther King: A Retrospective.”

Walks, lectures, prayers and other events helped join the ministries of Holy Name Province in remembering Dr. King’s legacy, which often reflects Franciscan values.

“Martin Luther King had the firm conviction that justice and peace, based on Christian love, can change the world we live in,” said Karl Koenig.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.