Remembrance, call to conversion stressed at annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mass

North Texas Catholic
(Jan 10, 2023) Local

Bishop Michael Olson imparts a blessing on the faithful at the end of the 37th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Mass celebrated at St. Michael Church in Bedford January 7, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

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BEDFORD — Bishop Michael Olson drew parallels between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts toward racial healing and unity and Christ’s call to all of us to conversion.

Bishop Olson on Jan. 7 celebrated Mass at St. Michael Church marking both the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord and the Diocese of Fort Worth’s 37th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Mass.

The yearly MLK Mass, which rotates among parishes throughout the diocese, attracted parishioners both from St. Michael and elsewhere.

“We celebrate first the Solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Bishop Olson said as the Mass began. “The mission by which God reveals Himself...the mission of salvation that extends to all people.

“It’s in that apostolic sphere that we also gather today to celebrate and ask God’s blessing as we mark as a nation Martin Luther King Jr. Day. That we’re mindful of the call the Lord has given all of us to conversion — conversion from racism and other sins that separate us and tear at the heart of the Church.”

The Feast of the Epiphany, Bishop Olson said, revolves around the gift of revelation — in the Magi’s case the revelation that they are encountering God’s own son upon their visit to the Christ Child.

Members of the choirs at St. Joseph Church in Arlington and Our Mother of Mercy Church in Fort Worth sing together during the 37th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Mass celebrated at St. Michael Church in Bedford January 7, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“The feast invites us into the mystery of faith,” Bishop Olson said. “Truth that can only be revealed, that cannot be discovered in and of itself.”

Such revelation, which can only come from God, changes everything, Bishop Olson added.

“Because in His revelation, God breaks into history and saves us from the darkness of sin,” Bishop Olson said. “The darkness that makes us think that evil is good and tolerable, and even that good is evil.”

The diocese’s MLK Mass should likewise serve as catalyst to our prayers to God for His gifts of peace and authentic justice and in the process deliver us from the sin of the injustice of racism, Bishop Olson said.

“That each of us turn away from and reject complicit and passive tolerance of this evil and embrace the full revelation offered to us by the infant Jesus,” Bishop Olson said. “That each person of different color and race belongs to Him and through Him we belong to each other in the humanity we share and the humanity He shares with us in our redemption.”

Absent the grace of conversion and revelation offered by Christ, humans fall prey to the false gods of race, money, guns, violence, and power, and in doing so render Christ a rival to our own desires and “perish in our own schemes,” Bishop Olson said.

St. Michael parishioner Marian Sims, who serves on the MLK Mass Organization Committee, was 18 when Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

“Very heartbreaking. Someone cut down in the prime of his life,” Sims said of her memories of that day. “Someone who was trying to heal this country and make a difference.”

Although 55 years have gone, King’s message resonates still, Sims said.

“It’s important that we keep his message of peace and justice for everyone alive and continue to recognize his contributions with us still today,” Sims said.

It’s beneficial also, Sims said, that the diocese holds King’s memorial Mass at a different parish each year.

“I think that brings members of whichever parish hosts it that year together to celebrate and remind, and brings people in from other parishes,” Sims said.

St. Vincent de Paul Church parishioner Madeline Morrison, also on the committee, said it’s important that King, and his message, never be relegated to history.

Members of the Knights of St. Peter Claver listen to the Gospel reading during the 37th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Mass celebrated at St. Michael Church in Bedford January 7, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“The first thing children learn in history about Dr. King is his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” Morrison said. “The meaning of that speech needs to be taught so that it doesn’t become just a slogan. To teach our children that they can dream and that with dreaming, reality sets in. It’s important for our children to learn that they’re not going anywhere unless they’re educated, and through educating themselves and going out in the world they educate others.”

Morrison said King’s message of nonviolence and inclusiveness rings true now more than ever.

“Everything today from the political, race, the gun situation seems like you have to fight for it,” Morrison said. “But what are we fighting for? We’re praying now that our young people, not just African Americans because Dr. King’s message was for everyone, will find a better way.”

Philip White, a parishioner of St. Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri, attended the event at Sims’ invitation.

“It’s important that we don’t forget and keep Dr. King’s message of hope alive for the young people coming up,” White said.

Twelve in 1968, White said he remembers King’s assassination well.

“They rolled a TV into the classroom so we could watch the whole ordeal unfolding live in front of us,” White said. “I’ve been to the site where Dr. King was assassinated several times too.”

White was one of several who judged the event’s essay contest.

A total of 130 students from diocesan Catholic schools, including 50 from Nolan Catholic High School, submitted essays detailing how, in the quest for justice and peace, they can put their talents and gifts to use to share in God’s love of service to others.

In the fourth to fifth grade category, Isabella Nguyen of St. Andrew Catholic School placed first.

Megan Thomas of St. Joseph Catholic School placed first in the sixth to eighth grade category.

In the high school category, Julia Guinn of Nolan, placed first.

To those students and others, Bishop Olson reminded that the Church must lead the way toward ending racial enmity.

“We know of the terrible tensions in our society,” Bishop Olson said. “We’re familiar with the ugliness of racism when it is violent and explicit. But a deeper ugliness of racism is the quiet version. The one that is an indifferent version where we decide not to say anything that is true, good, or beautiful but we choose to ignore those actions and comments and passive slights that are delivered because of the difference of races.

“We’re under the false impression that time heals all wounds. Nobody said that in the Gospel. The only thing that heals the wounds caused by sin is the redemptive sacrifice and love of Christ.”

2023 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest Winners

This year, the essay topic was: In the quest for justice and peace, how can I use my gifts and talents to share God’s love in service to others? Hover over the names of the first place winners to read their essays.

Winner Category School
Isabella Nguyen First Place, 4th to 5th grade St. Andrew Catholic School
Megan Thomas First Place, 6th to 8th grade St. Joseph Catholic School
Julia Guinn First Place, high school Nolan Catholic High School
Samuel Williams Second Place, 4th to 5th grade St. Andrew Catholic School
Sarah Doskocil Second Place, 6th to 8th grade St. Joseph Catholic School
Grace Zaucha Second Place, high school Nolan Catholic High School
Ximena Suarez-Perez Third Place, 4th to 5th grade St. George Catholic School
Rose Breclaw Third Place, 6th to 8th grade St. Maria Goretti Catholic School


MLK Mass, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., racism, Bishop Michael Olson, Feast of the Epiphany, St. Michael, Bedford, trending-english