Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Mass recognizes message of equality
COLLEYVILLE — On Saturday, January 20, congregants slowly entered the sanctuary for 5 p.m. Mass at Good Shepherd Church in Colleyville. Choir director Timothy Jacquet discreetly checked his notes as choir members and musicians quietly moved into place.
Just before the opening processional, Jacquet turned to the congregation with an invitation to participate not only by singing along with the choir but by clapping during the introductory song, simply titled “Gathering Song.” He recognized that while clapping to music isn’t the norm for a Catholic Mass at Good Shepherd, it is welcomed and encouraged during the opening song.
The choir sang, “(Come on and) praise the Lord with me…” and the congregation clapped to the music, joining the chorus with scripted “Hallelujahs."
An annual celebration
This was more than just a Saturday Vigil Mass — this was the Mass of Peace and Justice to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This was a labor of love that volunteers from parishes throughout the diocese have organized for thirty-eight years. Good Shepherd hosted this year’s Mass, but it rotates to other parishes annually.
Committee Chair Marian Sims said the Peace and Justice Mass “helps expose others to what the African American culture has to offer. And it is a reminder of what Dr. King stood for…his message that all people should be treated equally and fairly. It is a message that is still good today.”
The tribute included a diocese-wide student essay contest and a reception after Mass, so parishioners could meet and socialize with church members and guests. Essay contest winners were also recognized at the reception.
According to Sims, the group began meeting in August to work out the details for the January event. Deacon Don Warner, who served as the committee liaison to the diocese, and Essay Committee Chair Michael Barks were responsible for the dissemination of the information about the contest, managing the judging process, and recognizing the winning essayists at the reception after Mass.
“One of our first discussions is to decide on a theme for the student essay contest,” Sims said.
This year’s theme asked youngsters to write on an excerpt of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in 1963 during the historic March on Washington.
Music is the purview of Jacquet. He was deliberate in his musical selections and took into consideration that he is working with choir members from several churches. In recognition of the unique culture of the African choir members, the selected song during the Offertory was from The Democratic Republic of Congo and sung in Lingala.
“I try to make it a balance of spiritual hymns that Martin Luther King liked, with modern gospel music and music from the traditional [Catholic] Church,” he said.
Almost every aspect of the Mass reflected the influence of this group of organizers. A framed picture of King stood next to the altar; the choir had kente cloth shawls on their black robes; members of the Knights and Ladies of St. Peter Claver, a traditionally African American service organization, were present and served as readers and members of the choir. The St. Anne Altar Society members from Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth decorated the altar.
Bishop Michael Olson, who was the celebrant, invited the Most Reverend Mitchell T. Rozanski, Archbishop of St. Louis, as the guest homilist. The archbishop’s homily recalled the similarities of the prophets in the Bible and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Like the prophets of old, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr did not accept a failed status quo. Inspired by the Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus, King, from the depths of his being, was able to draw from a reservoir of strength that impelled him to preach, inspire, and enliven people of all races and creeds to name racism for what it is — a sin against God in the dignity of each of his created sons and daughters.”
The Mass was memorable for many who attended. Congregants walked out of the church speaking of being “uplifted,” “inspired,” and enjoying the “freshness” of the music.
Beth Everett, a visitor to the parish, was enthralled at the authenticity of the African tradition of taking a basket of food to the altar during the Offertory. “I recognized the tradition from my trip to Africa,” she said.
This Mass was the culmination of a lot of hard work. However, one person who wasn’t on the committee worked just as hard to prepare for the day. Sitting quietly in her white dress and veil, just steps from the altar, Sofia Boettcher sat with her family until it was time for her to make her first Holy Communion.
Her mother, Staci, was delighted at this unique Mass experience, “I thought this was great,” she said. “This is a memory Sofia will carry with her for the rest of her life.”
Winners of the Essay Contest:
After reading or listening to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, students considered the state of race relations in the United States today and wrote on one of the following:
1. How have we as a nation embraced MLK’s dream – how have we failed?
2. What steps can you take to build up the ‘solid rock of brotherhood’ and make justice a reality for all God’s children?
Group 1 4th – 5th grades
1st Anna Easterling, St. Andrew Catholic School
2nd Alice Nguyen, St. Andrew Catholic School (won second place last year)
3rd Hadleigh Baker, St. Andrew Catholic School
Group 2 6th – 8th grades
1st Isabella Nguyen, St. Andrew Catholic School (won first place last year in the 4th/5th grade category last year.)
2nd Adriana Mendez, All Saints Catholic School
3rd Sophia Gaitan, Holy Trinity Catholic School
Group 3 9th – 12th grades
1st Molly Byrne, Nolan Catholic High School
2nd Genevieve Vu, Nolan Catholic High School
3rd Chloe McLain, Nolan Catholic High School