Bishop Roy E. Campbell Jr. of Washington, president of the National Black Catholic Congress, has issued a statement congratulating fellow prelate Shelton Fabre on his appointment this week as the next head of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
When he is seated on March 30th, Fabre will become the first new African-American Catholic archbishop in nearly 18 years.
Campbell’s new statement was sent out via email late Friday morning.
“The NBCC has worked closely with Archbishop-designate Fabre, in his former role as Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux, as chair of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee on Racism, and as an active member of the board of directors of the NBCC,” he said.
“[He] and the faithful of Louisville are in our prayers, as are the faithful of Houma-Thibodaux.”
Campbell himself is the most recently appointed African-American Catholic bishop and just the fifth in the 21st century, having been elevated as an auxiliary for DC in 2017. He continues to serve as pastor of St Joseph Catholic Church in Largo, Maryland.
There are presently just five active African-American Catholic bishops in the country, down from a high of 15 in the late 1990s—following protests demanding more African-American representation in the episcopacy.
Fabre’s appointment is perhaps a change of pace, however, being to a see—and state—that has never before had a Black bishop. (All three of the previous African-American archbishops began their tenures in the same diocese, that of Atlanta.)
The NBCC, founded in 1987 as an outlet for Black advocacy and ministry in the US Church, has traditionally been led by a board of directors that cooperates with the nation’s Black bishops in planning and decision-making.
Campbell, who succeeded founding NBCC president Bishop John Ricard, SSJ in 2019, is expressing optimism that Fabre’s new role will be one of continued cooperation with the NBCC mission and ethos.
“I personally am excited to continue working with Archbishop-designate Fabre for the unity and growth of the people of the Archdiocese of Louisville, the enrichment of Black Catholics in the United States through the work of the NBCC, and to assist him in his new role through the resources of the NBCC,” he said.
“Archbishop-designate Fabre’s episcopal motto [‘Comfort my people’] speaks well of what he brings, by the grace of God, to the people of the Archdiocese of Louisville.”
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).