Immigrants And Refugees
Public Statement

A Message from Monsignor Kevin Sullivan: A Martin Luther King, Jr. Reflection

More details King at the 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C.
King at the 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: Wikipedia Public Domain

Faith and religion; policy and politics; legacy and future; rights and responsibilities; race and identity; pride and shame all surface in marking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 15, 2024.

For Christians, we take pride that Martin Luther King Jr.’s deep Christian faith drove him to confront the injustices of racism in our nation, and we hang our heads in shame that too many worshiping Christians in this nation unabashedly perpetuated the injustice of slavery for centuries.

Noting this provides both a painful caution and a hopeful challenge in our contemporary world to “get religion right.”  Painful, because the current list is too long of those places where extreme ideologies using the mask of more-than-one major religion spew divisiveness, hate, violence and death.  Hopeful, because in many, but never enough, places those with deep religious faith are raising their voices and acting up against such degradation and inhumanities — seeking to advance justice and healing.

We recommit to “getting religion right” at Catholic Charities:

We do not discriminate.  We serve people of all religions.  We do not proselytize, but neither do we shy away from affirming our Catholic values and beliefs that inspire and direct our agencies and programs of providing help and creating hope for the most vulnerable of our neighbors.

As we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., we do not engage in apotheosis, but raise up this great American’s contribution to — paraphrasing his own words — “bending the long arc of the moral universe toward justice.”  We reflect upon the values and actions that he engaged in more than 50 years ago, and hope and pray that they might inspire us in a very different and seemingly less hospitable environment.

I proffer a few questions for our reflection this weekend.

Can we — be passionate and peaceful at the same time; protest powerfully yet civilly; shout for collective social responsibility and also re-commit to fulfilling our own individual responsibilities; celebrate the diversity of culture and race with an awareness of the varied and inequitable societal impact these have resulted in, and not obscure the common humanity that we all share?

The celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday calls Catholic Charities to re-examine ourselves each year on issues of race and inequality.  We should not shy away from asking ourselves hard questions about diversity, equity, and inclusion within our own Catholic Charities family.

Our mission, values and policies are clear.  We affirm each person made in the image and likeness of God worthy of dignity and respect.

Through our programs and services, we strive to build a world that is more compassionate and just.  And yet, we do not always carry these out as we should and fall short in practice — sometimes very significantly.  I know that I do personally.

As a result each year, Catholic Charities needs to re-commit to honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. by strengthening our contribution toward bending the moral arc further toward justice.  This weekend I will take some time to reflect and pray about this. Please consider doing so in your own way.

I end by thanking you for what you are already doing in different ways to make our world more caring. Thank you.

With gratitude,

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan
Executive Director