Office of Black Catholic Ministry
The Office of Black Catholic Ministry of the Diocese of Phoenix is proud to host and celebrate the Life and Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. every year. The celebration was held on the holiday of his birthday, Monday, January 17, 2022 and it is the day the State of Arizona and the Nation celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event begins with musical preludes from the Gospel Choir of the African American community. The Mass is celebrated by Bishop Thomas Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares. Priests of the Diocese join as concelebrants to honor Dr. King. One of the significant points of the celebration is the invitation of a Guest Homilist. This year, the Bishop Emeritus from the Diocese of Belleville, the Most Rev. Edward K. Braxton filled that honor. The Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of Ss. Simon and Jude with an opportunity for the faithful to watch from home via the YouTube channel of the Diocese.
The invited guests included the Knights of St. Peter Claver, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of St. Peter Claver, Supreme Knight of the Knights of St. Peter Claver, Mr. James Ellis and the Knights of Malta. Others in attendance included school children from the Cathedral school and Notre Dame High School. The faithful at Mass included folks from European and Hispanic ancestry. The priests at the Mass included 3 men from Africa and the Dioceses’ own African American priest, Fr. Andrew McNair, who is also Chaplain to the African American Community of the Diocese of Phoenix. Fr. Andrew was appointed Chaplain in April 2021 y Bishop Olmsted.
The presence of Bishop Braxton was a great joy for the faithful and in particular for the African American community. There are few African American Bishops in the United States and this honor brings a great awareness of the need to pray for more vocations from the Community. Bishop Braxton began his homily with what Dr. King might say if he were still alive today. He spoke in the voice of Dr. King and spoke about how racism continues to impact the Church, Christianity, and society as a whole. Bishop Braxton quoted the U.S. Bishops’ pastoral letters on racism from 2018 and 1979, respectively, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love” and “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” asking if the letters are well-known in the Diocese of Phoenix or if priests and deacons speak from the pulpit about these letters.
A reception was held that allowed Bishop Braxton to interact with folks and sign his book, “The Church and the Racial Divide”. He was happy to be part of this celebration and thanked Bishop Olmsted for the opportunity to share his message with the local church in Phoenix.