Native American Ministry/Office of Black Catholic Ministry
The Diocese of Phoenix gathers every year in January to celebrate the Life and Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The celebration of preludes, Mass and reception is planned by the Ministry to Black Catholics of the Diocese who select the parish, invite a guest homilist, select the music for the liturgy and above all make the local community aware of this annual celebration. This year the celebration was held on the Saturday of the holiday, January 14, 2023. The event began with musical preludes from the Gospel Choir of the newly named parish of St. Josephine Bakhita. The Mass was celebrated by the newly named Bishop of Phoenix, Most Rev. John Dolan after the retirement of Bishop Thomas Olmsted. Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares and Bishop Emeritus Olmsted joined in the celebration. Priests of the Diocese joined as concelebrants to honor Dr. King. One of the significant points of the celebration is the invitation of a Guest Homilist. This year, Bishop Dolan felt it was important to keep the invitation local and asked Fr. Andrew McNair, chaplain for the African American community and parochial administrator of St. Josephine Bakhita to be the guest homilist. Given the newness of St. Josephine Bakhita parish, Fr. Andrew extended the invitation to the Diocese to hold the Mass and celebration there. The Mass was also livestreamed via the Facebook page of the Ministry to Black Catholics of the Diocese.
This year, Fr. Andrew extended an extra special invitation to the Catholic elementary schools and they responded by sending more than 25 children to the Mass. The children were asked to bring canned food and other non-perishable items for the pantry of the parish. These special gifts were brought forward during the bringing forward of the gifts of bread and wine. Basket after basket was brought by the school children and it overflowed in the sanctuary. It was a great display of solidarity and charity as the Bishop took each basket and greeted each child. Other invited guests included the Knights of St. Peter Claver, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of St. Peter Claver, and the Knights of Malta. The faithful at Mass included folks from European and Hispanic heritage.
Fr. Andrew’s homily was well received and he would ask the Church to affirm what he was saying by responding “amen”. He spoke about the inherent dignity we have as children of God. The sacredness we all share being made in the image and likeness of God. That the relationship with God must be just as important to our relationship with each other. He drew a strong connection to the faith of Dr. King as a believer in Jesus Christ to our faith in Jesus. Dr. King certainly did much to advance civil rights in the US, but above all, Dr. King was a man of faith.
Another year of celebrating the legacy of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great way continue to honor the life and contributions of Dr. King.