HOUMA, LOUISIANA-- Faith and civil rights have often gone hand in hand. In February 14th, 1957, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference elected a young Martin Luther King Jr. to head a national fight, where pastors would directly face danger head on. The Catholic faith has also been a part of fighting racism. The St. Augustine Catholic Church of New Orleans, was established in the 1800's by free people of color in the historic community of Tremé.
Faith is an eternal flame and as it is, so seems to be the evils of racism. Recently, on September, 23, 2013, Pope Francis appointed Shelton Joseph Fabre as the first black Catholic bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.
Bishop Fabre leads a large area in faith, saying "we serve probably about 90 to 100 thousand catholics. One of the gifts that we find in the Catholic Church here in South Louisiana is the wonderful gift African American catholics. It is a face of Jesus Christ that is a beautiful face."
In addition to his busy schedule as the Bishop, Fabre serves as the national chairman for an anti-racism ad hoc committee of Catholics.
"After the events of Charlottesville, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established an ad hoc committee against racism to write a new pastoral letter and the chief responsibility of the Ad-hoc committee against racism, of which I am the chair is to implement that pastoral letter," says Fabre.
Recently, the committee is conducting listening sessions around the country designed to promote dialogue and evaluates legislation to ameliorate diocese, parishes and the overall community. Bishop Fabre believes that the church has not been exclusively outside of prejudice. The committee listens to stories about how people across the country have been hurt by racism inside the church. The committee will then craft a letter to the local Bishop.
Additionally, the ad hoc committee against racism provides lesson plans for grades K through twelve about the evils of bigotry. The Bishop acknowledges racism as a sin and says that encounter is the way to defeat it.
Bishop Fabre says "I think we should go back to Pope Francis' lesson of encounter. It is our real belief that through encounter we will gain healing. We really need to encounter one another and listen to one another and to enter into dialogue with one another."