January 27, 2006

2006 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Holy Angels students honor life and legacy of
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By Mary Ann Wyand

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech is a powerful reminder of the importance of working for peace, justice and equality as well as respecting the dignity of every person and seeking nonviolent solutions to problems.

Holy Angels School students in Indianapolis try to live out King’s dream by honoring his life and legacy of promoting civil rights during an annual march and Mass commemorating his Jan. 15 birthday.

Rain forced St. Joseph of Carondelet Sister Gerry O’Laughlin, the principal, to cancel the school’s annual memorial march along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street on Jan. 13, but the students and their guests from Holy Cross Central School in Indianapolis participated in a program and Mass at Holy Angels Church to remember King’s dream.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Holy Angels fifth-grade student Deon Holder sang “Amazing Grace” then classmate Orlonzo Scott read King’s speech.

Sixth-grader Marcus Saloane served as the master of ceremonies for the liturgy and led the children as they recited the school’s “Student Pledge of Nonviolence.”

The pledge states, “Making peace must start within ourselves and in our classroom. Each of us at Holy Angels Catholic School commits ourselves as best as we can to become nonviolent and peaceful people. We pledge to respect self and others, to communicate better, to listen, to forgive, to respect nature, to play creatively and to be courageous. This is our pledge. These are our goals. We will help each other become more peaceful people.”

After the Mass and program, Orlonzo said he was surprised to be chosen to read King’s speech.

“I think Sister Gerry picked me because she knew I am a good reader,” he said. “It means a lot to me … so I’m very grateful. I studied hard and practiced with my family, too.”

Orlonzo said it’s important for everyone to try to carry on King’s legacy.

“I think living his legacy is very important because he didn’t have to do that, but he did,” Orlonzo said. “He died for us so that we will not be racist and not be violent. I think it’s very important what he did.”

Orlonzo said he likes helping people, and tries to show his little brothers and sisters how to get along with each other. He wants to help people when he grows up, too.

“I want to be a basketball player or a policeman someday,” he said. “I want to be a pastor, too.”

Immaculate Heart of Mary Reparatrix Sister Christine Nantaba, the computer teacher, also helps the children learn how to participate in school liturgies and prayer services because many Holy Angels students are not Catholic.

“We teach the children about God’s love and how to show respect for him,” Sister Christine said. “We try to instill the good Christian values in the children, and it starts with their being together in the classroom, on the playground and in church.”

At the beginning of the school year, she said, “Sister Gerry gathers the children together, brings them to church and goes through all the specific things that we need to do in the Catholic Church. She teaches them to show respect. She always says that every Church has its own way of doing things, and this is what we do in the Catholic Church. They really follow through. Every Friday [during the school Mass], she expects that from the children.”

Sister Christine grew up in Kkonge Parish in the village of Nnono in Uganda, where she learned about King’s efforts to promote equality through the civil rights movement.

“Dr. Martin Luther King was a man of peace for this country and was also very important for the whole world because the human rights that he put forward should be recognized everywhere,” Sister Christine said. “I heard about him in Africa because he worked so hard to achieve basic human rights for all people. Dr. King is a man for everybody, and his message is for the whole world.”

During his homily, Father Kenneth Taylor, Holy Angels’ pastor, reminded the children that King never gave up his dream even though his life was difficult at times.

“One of the reasons why Dr. Martin Luther King had to do what he did is because we are sinful people,” Father Taylor said. “It is the sinfulness in us that brings about racism, prejudice and injustice. We need to rid ourselves of that sinfulness to be the people that God wants us to be.”

Father Taylor also serves as the administrator of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis and director of the archdiocesan Multicultural Commission.

“Our nation is different today than it was before because of what he did,” Father Taylor told the children. “While Martin Luther King was leading the civil rights movement, he was trying to change not only the laws of our country, but also the minds and hearts of the people. It wasn’t easy. In the years before he was assassinated, he was arrested, thrown in jail and beat up. People treated him very badly because a lot of people didn’t like what he was doing.”

But King didn’t give up on his dream, Father Taylor said. “He was a man of strong faith. He was totally devoted to Jesus Christ, and he knew that—as with every Christian—he had a call from God that what was going on in the nation was wrong and needed to be changed. His faith gave him the strength and the courage to keep going.”

Christ also suffered because of his calling from God, Father Taylor said. “Jesus’ life ended in a horrible way, too. The people turned against him and crucified him on the cross. But he had a calling … and was true to his calling all the way to the end.”

Because of your baptism, he told the children, “you are followers of Jesus Christ and are called to make a positive difference in the world. Dr. King showed us that it can be done. … You can do what’s right, you can do good things, if you have a strong faith, strong spirit, stay true to your call and have a close relationship with God.” †


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