The annual diocesan Mass honoring the slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. takes on a regional flair this year. Black Catholic leaders from two other states will join Phoenix-area Catholics in prayer.
Deacon Marvin Threatt of San Diego, who once led the National Association of African American Catholic Deacons, is from San Diego and will deliver the homily. A gospel choir from St. James the Apostle’s weekly Gospel Mass in Las Vegas will lead Phoenix’s faithful in song during the annual Mass Jan. 20 at St. Mary’s Basilica, 231 N. Third St. in Phoenix.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Mass
When: 3 p.m., Jan. 20
Where: St. Mary’s Basilica, 231 N. Third Street, Phoenix
Info: (602) 354-2025
More: Reception to follow, including live rendition of “I Have a Dream” speech.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted will be the principal celebrant for the liturgy.
Black Catholic leaders say it’s vital to honor the work of the Christian civil rights leader and gather in prayer for the hope of racial equality.
“Racism, injustice, divisiveness based on ethnicity, culture and religion still exist in many parts of our country and our world. Certainly we in the Southwest have seen hints of this in the issue of immigration,” Deacon Threatt said.
He has seen firsthand the injustices of poverty and gender bias in places like Nigeria. The deacon now serves as president of the William Kupiec Academy for Girls in Nigeria. He also had a successful educational career including the Commission for Catholic Education sponsored by the National Black Catholic Congress.
Deacon Threatt called the work and life of Dr. King a starting point in terms of inspiration for everyone, especially Christians, to develop appropriate responses to any type of injustice. He plans to deliver a homily that encourages all believers to continue to work for American equality and justice.
James Lackey, who has been attending the Martin Luther King Mass since its inception in the early 1990s, finds the liturgy to be one of unity. He said it’s a time to bring black Catholics scattered throughout the diocese together in prayer.
They have the chance to do so every third Sunday for the diocesan Unity Mass, but commitments at local parishes have caused those numbers to dwindle. He hopes for a good turnout at the annual MLK Mass.
“Sometimes it takes something different to bring people together,” Lackey said.
He hopes the introduction of the gospel choir from Las Vegas provides that motivation. The 38-voice choir is roughly quadruple the size of the diocesan Freedom Singers who usually lead the faithful in song.
Kit Marshall, who heads the diocesan Office of Black Catholic Ministry, hopes that hearing the gospel choir instills a greater sense of pride in being a black Catholic.