Students to offer volunteer service on MLK Day
Martin Luther King Day is coming up on Monday, Jan. 16, which is when hundreds of students from Catholic high schools and parish youth groups father for a day of volunteer work.
What makes that effort special to you?
It’s edifying to me that so many young people who are given a day off from school choose to use that time as a “day on” to do something of service for others and for the broader community. They do this in the belief that their service will help bring about greater justice within our local church, within the city of New Orleans and beyond. I’m always impressed by the excitement our young people show on Martin Luther King Day.
How many young people are involved?
Last year we had more than 300, and I think the number is growing every year because many more parishes and schools are getting involved. It’s appropriate that we do this on Martin Luther King Day because, as we all know, Dr. King had a dream. His dream was that someday, people would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. He had a dream that all people would respect each other. I think Dr. King would be the first one to acknowledge that his dream was really the dream of Jesus. He preached that consistently. His life was taken because of his stance on racial equality and justice.
What's the state of his dream today?
I think we all should recognize that within our archdiocese, racism is alive and well, even in some areas of the archdiocese where people may think that the effects of racism do not exist. Sometimes it’s difficult for people to actually see the effects of racism, prejudice or bias. We are expected as Christians to acknowledge our prejudices and to do whatever we can to monitor that kind of thinking or behavior. By doing this we can bring about a society that shows greater respect for each and every human life.
What has the archdiocese done to foster racial harmony?
I’m very pleased with the work of Sister Teresa Rooney and the Racial Harmony Committee. They have made presentations throughout the archdiocese to foster dialogue among people of different races. Some of these discussions can be challenging, but they will foster unity. The presentations and discussions give people the opportunity to examine their own hearts and see where there might be some taint of prejudice and racism and then address that. It helps to be honest with ourselves so that we can change any attitudes that might conflict with the values and teachings of Jesus.
You've spoken often about the "New Battle of New Orleans" - against violence, murder and racism - and we pray that prayer every week at Mass.
If we’re going to be honest with ourselves, those three ills continue to haunt us as a community. It’s only with God’s help – and by following God’s plan for our salvation and for ultimate happiness – that we can embrace each other and take positive actions that will lead to stronger families, stronger churches, stronger civic associations and stronger communities. This work all starts in prayer, and we also must be sure that we go about the work of Jesus. That means two things: Loving God and loving our neighbor. It’s so simple, but, given our human state, it’s also difficult. May God bless our efforts to sow peace.