Archbishop: Christ has victory over racism

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron greets parishioners following Mass at St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills on April 15. The archbishop spoke during his homily at the suburban parish about the victory of Christ over the evils of sin, specifically racism, and to call for Catholics to fight every form of prejudice and hatred in today’s culture. (Naomi Vrazo | Archdiocese of Detroit)

Bringing message of healing to suburbs, chief shepherd offers food for thought for archdiocese

FARMINGTON HILLS — Continuing a message of racial healing and outreach, Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron took the opportunity on April 15 to preach about the evils of racism and recommit the Archdiocese of Detroit to fighting prejudice and speaking out for the marginalized.

In his homily at the noon Mass at St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills on the third Sunday of Easter, Archbishop Vigneron said Jesus’ resurrection destroys the power of sin, including racism, but it’s up to priests and parishioners alike to carry out the Father’s will on earth.

Archbishop Vigneron preaches at St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills on April 15. (Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic)

“This Easter, we think about how Jesus’ rising is very much a promise that we will rise from the dead,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Christ’s resurrection is not only a victory over sin and death. But as part of that victory, it is a triumph over every act or attitude or structure that would seem to propagate the lie that some members of a race or group are inferior of those who belong to a different race or ethnic group.”

During the Jan. 28 Mass for Peace at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Archbishop Vigneron publically apologized for past sins of racism committed by the Archdiocese of Detroit, including times when Detroit Catholics actively or passively hindered the Church’s ability to spread the love of Jesus to the African-American community.

Two weeks after observing the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the archbishop sought to continue that message of healing in Detroit’s predominantly white suburbs.

“I’ve asked to come here to St. Fabian as your bishop so I can make a public witness to the Lord’s resurrection as a victory over racism,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “I’m not here because I think St. Fabian has a special problem or things are really bad in Farmington Hills. I’m here because I knew I’d be welcomed. By making this preaching here, I’d be able in some way, to make my point and share it with the people of the whole archdiocese.”

Recognizing Detroit’s own history of racial violence, along with incidents that continue today, Archbishop Vigneron said these can be traced to Cain having violent animosity for his brother, Abel.

“With much disappointment, the bishops of this country continue to see in our midst more voices of hate,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Our interpretation is what we see is a continuation of what goes all the way back to the fall of our first parents. What is this, except a continuation in our day of Cain’s antagonism and ultimate violent actions against Abel?”

Archbishop Vigneron said healing is a necessary part of moving forward from discrimination.

“There is a man I work with in the Chancery who told me as a boy he came home from school and told his mother he wanted to be a priest,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “The boy’s mother advised him to tell Sister about it. But when he told Sister, she said, ‘I’m sorry, that won’t work; you can’t be a priest, you’re colored.’ This is something we all need to be healed from.”

Archbishop Vigneron said Jesus’ resurrection is a call to reconciliation and healing, amending past mistakes and resolving to build a community of love.

“This is not a political message; I’m not here to urge, as a response to racism, any one party’s platform or program,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “I’m here to speak about the lordship of Jesus Christ, and how we’re advancing His kingdom so we can be instruments of healing this evil.”

Following the homily, parishioners from St. Fabian stood and applauded the archbishop.

St. Fabian parishioner Ernie Groush told The Michigan Catholic he was pleased with the address.

“It gave me pause, especially to hear the message come from him,” Groush said. “It made me think if I’m doing all the things in my life in this regard that can be helpful.”

Groush appreciated how the archbishop didn’t lay out specific calls to action or programs to combat racism, allowing the parish and parishioners to discern how best they can show the love of Christ to the community.

“The archbishop brought this to our attention, saying, ‘I recognize this is something we need to do,’ but he left it to us to ponder and think about we need to do with this,” Groush said. “He’s leaving that up to us. You see why he has the respect in and out of the community.”

Near the end of the homily, Archbishop Vigneron said he wanted his message to be a call to action for the archdiocese to recommit itself to fighting racism in all forms.

“As pastor of the church in Detroit, I’m firmly committed to leading in advancing the work of Jesus,” Archbishop Vigneron said.

“We are all concerned when we see the decline of church attendance and the drop in the numbers of baptisms, confirmations and marriages,” Archbishop Vigneron continued. “We all want to see the Church flourish. One way to invite people to join us as a band of Christ’s disciples is to let them see we are doing our part in making our community better. And by the power of Jesus Christ, we can overcome the sin of racism.”

Listen to the homily

To watch or listen to Archbishop Vigneron’s April 15 homily at St. Fabian, visit