Patricia Bradley peruses a display of peace buttons and an illustration of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Jon DeBellis Of the Catholic Sentinel
On Monday, Jan. 21, folks across the United States took time out for a federal holiday commemorating Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s commitment to peace, justice and civil rights.
On Saturday, at St. Mary's Cathedral in Northwest Portland, members of the African-American Catholic Coalition of Oregon and the Ladies of St. Peter Claver held their 20th Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Mass, celebrating the late civil rights leader's legacy.
The Mass, which features the music of the St. Andrew Parish Gospel choir, highlights Rev. King’s message of inalienable human dignity, but also brings Afro-centric culture and traditions into Portland’s Catholic community, say organizers.
Archbishop John G. Vlazny, who celebrated the Mass, described the late Rev. King as one of Christ's "signposts" of hope for peace in this modern era.
"The threats to religious freedom; the nagging presence of violence, prejudice and poverty, can lead us to believe we are fresh out of hope. But God always sends new signs, new opportunities, new instruments of his providential care," said the archbishop.
"[Rev. King] was a leader who not only dreamed of a color blind society, but the leader of a movement that achieved historic reforms that helped make it a reality," said the archbishop. "He became a sign that prejudice and violence must end, and that we can never live in peace unless we promote justice and true charity in all our relationships."
"We continue to need signposts like Dr. King, to guide us on the road to true justice for everyone," said the archbishop. "We won't resolve these issues without the help of a gracious and loving god — and Dr. King knew that."
A Baptist minister and the son of a Baptist minister, Rev. King became a leader of the civil rights movement in the 1950s. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
For African-American Coalition director Lucinda Tate, the Mass proved to be bittersweet. Twenty years of celebrating was something to be proud of she said, but she was also sad that the Mass would most likely be Archbishop Vlazny's last one as celebrant, due to his impending retirement.
The Mass, which began in 1989 (there was no Mass for four years), began under Archbishop William Levada's leadership, and rotated between Holy Redeemer, Immaculate Heart and St. Andrew Parishes in North and Northeast Portland. Some years even featured liturgical dance.
Archbishop Vlazny, says Tate, was honored to host the Mass at the Cathedral the past 10 years, helping showcase the African-American Catholic population of the archdiocese.
"He has been so supportive over the years and we are very thankful for that," said Tate.
"His homilies about Dr. King have always come from a very pastoral and personal place," said Patricia Bradley. "We will miss him."