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Resolving to keep Martin Luther King’s dream alive, working for a more just, inclusive society

February 08, 2021 | posted by Today's Catholic newspaper

Topics: Archbishop, In the Press, Breaking News

Resolving to keep Martin Luther King’s dream alive, working for a more just, inclusive society

Remembering and celebrating the legacy of the love and faith of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the 34th Annual City-wide Interfaith Workshop Service was held January 17 at Mount Zion First Baptist Church. However, unlike past year’s, when the event was held in packed sanctuaries with worshippers holding hands singing “We Shall Overcome,” this year’s virtual gathering was limited to a handful of speakers and a choir of a half dozen socially distanced singers and musicians with the church’s Praise Team.

While there was no audience, the event was broadcast live on Catholic Television of San Antonio and TVSA, the city’s public access channel. The stations partnered to air this year’s service, with TVSA pre-recording a majority of the presenters for a package which aired prior to the live event.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, was present at Mount Zion and welcomed viewers to the service honoring the memory and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., martyred for his faith and commitment to non-violence by the hand of the very violence he opposed.

Blessed Pope Paul VI, the Holy Father of the Catholic Church in the days when Dr. King was killed, said these words: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

In 2018, the current Holy Father, Pope Francis, in a letter to the people of Chicago, said, “I urge all people, especially young men and women, to respond to Dr. King’s prophetic words and know that a ‘culture of nonviolence’ is not an unattainable dream, but a path that has produced decisive results. The consistent practice of nonviolence has broken barriers, bound wounds, healed nations…”

“More than 50 years after Dr. King’s death and in the midst of a society soaked in the blood of gun violence, civil unrest across the country due to racism, intolerance of immigrants, the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the unprecedented attack on the seat of democracy – our nation’s Capitol -- it may seem that this task is too large, too much for us to attain,” Archbishop Gustavo said. “Yet Dr. King believed that one day we would reach that ‘Promised Land’ where the inherent dignity of each human person would be recognized, and that each person would be judged by the content of his or her character, and not by the color of his or her skin.”

The archbishop explained that there is a special challenge in San Antonio now. “As one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the country, and with a rich and diverse history, we can help to forge the future and create that ‘culture of non-violence,” emphasized the Missionary of the Holy Spirit. “Our annual remembrance of Dr. King, in this inter-faith virtual prayer service, is an important sign of our potential as a community in San Antonio.”

He continued, “Yet our work is not done, for we live now in a city and community not so much divided by race, as divided by the pandemic effect, with a vast separation of the rich and the poor. The justice of God is not the justice of retribution, but the justice of reparation and restoration. Let’s set ourselves to this task together.”

The San Antonio prelate prayed, “O God, through our remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reinvigorate our commitment to the task of making the world more just, for in your justice, we shall come to know peace.”

The main speaker at this year’s event was Rev. Otis Mitchell, Sr., pastor of Mount Zion First Baptist; and the litany of celebration was given by a youth of the church, Zoe Anderson Gardener.

Joan Gaines of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahai’is of San Antonio prayed the prayer of understanding; Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy of the Hindu Community of San Antonio introduced the guest speaker; Rev. Wyndee Holbrook of the Interfaith San Antonio Alliance prayed the prayer for peace; and Imam Omar Shakir of Masjid Bilal prayed the closing benediction.

As in year’s past though, the Praise Team, led by director Gralin Vinning and accompanied by Daniel Salone of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, concluded the service with a rousing chorus of “We Shall Overcome.”

Due to the pandemic, San Antonio’s annual MLK March on the city’s eastside, the nation’s largest which would attract crowds in excess of 100,000 people, was cancelled by the City of San Antonio Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Commission out of an abundance of caution due to spiking COVID-19 numbers in San Antonio and across south Texas.