Catholics to gather at MLK Mass to pay tribute to civil rights leader

The life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. will be honored at the annual Mass celebrated in his name at 3 p.m., Jan. 20, at St. Mary’s Basilica, 231 N. Third St. in Phoenix.
The life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. will be honored at the annual Mass celebrated in his name at 3 p.m., Jan. 20, at St. Mary’s Basilica, 231 N. Third St. in Phoenix.

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.[quote_box_right]

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.[/quote_box_right]

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.


  1. I am very uncomfortable with an annual “MLK Mass”. Please don’t get me wrong, Southern Baptists are my favorite protestant denomination, and Dr. King was a great man that peacefully protested racial inequality and racism. But ‘Great American’ does not equate ‘Catholic Saint’.

    Let me rewind the tape for a moment. Margaret Sanger, the founder of what we know now as “Planned Parenthood’, believed in eugenics. She believed in assisting “The race toward the elimination of the unfit,” “Compulsory segregation or sterilization for the profoundly retarded,” “Restrictive immigration policies,” was not opposed to homosexual behavior, and in 1926 she gave a lecture on birth control to the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan. (Silver Lake, New Jersey)

    What does this have to do with Dr. King? On May 5th, 1966 Dr. King received “THE PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA MARGARET SANGER AWARD.” And he accepted it! “Mrs. Coretta Scott King delivered her husband’s acceptance speech on his behalf.” In a letter, Dr. King said: “Words are inadequate for me to say how honored I was to be the recipient of the Margaret Sanger Award.”

    If anything in my short rant is wrong I want to stand corrected. If I am correct, all faithful Catholics need an explanation.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.