The Catholic Spirit Photo
Lora and Alan Walters perform during the Black Lives Matter gathering at their Parish of St. Sebastian in Kingwood June 11.
By Colleen Rowan
KINGWOOD—Members of St. Sebastian Parish in Kingwood came together in front of their church on the afternoon of June 11 for a Black Lives Matter gathering.
Livestreamed on parish’s Facebook page, the event began with a welcome from Father Andrew Switzer, pastor of the parish and the missions of St. Zita’s in Masontown and St. Edward the Confessor in Terra Alta.
“We’re here today as a Christian community, by our baptism, called to be a prophetic people,” Father Switzer said. “We’re here because we believe that black lives matter.” He said he stands with communities across the country and the world that are facing racism.
Noting that they were gathered in front of the statue St. Sebastian, he said, “We stand in solidarity with his intercession and the other profits and martyrs that were murdered. Father Switzer then read the names: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade.
“We are here to repent of America’s original, original sin, racism. We must look into our hearts,” Father Switzer said. “We want to raise this issue in rural America, white culture, to say to you, our black brothers and sisters, we stand in solidarity with you.”
Speaking next was Preston County Prosecuting Attorney Mel Snyder, who is also a St. Sebastian’s parishioner. He expressed his hope that the country and the world would one day change.
Father Patsy Iaquinta, a priest of the diocese retired from active ministry, gave a reflection on racism, and said that he was raised to have respect for all people. He also shared his experience of participating in the civil rights march in Washington in the 1960s as a seminarian.
“We’ve come a long way, but boy do we have a long way to go,” Father Iaquinta said.
Parishioners Lora and Alan Walters then took the podium to perform the song “Strange Fruit.”
In his remarks after the song, Alan reminded those gathered of Jesus’ new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. “What does Jesus say about this love?” Alan asked. “He says, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … he has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives … and to let the oppressed go free…’ Let us join the holy will of Christ and work to resurrect this world from the sin of racism that the oppressed might be free. The Lord hears the cry of the oppressed. Blessed be the Lord.”
The gathering ended with Father Iaquinta leading all in the singing of “Amazing Grace.”