The Deacon's Bench

The good people of Louisville were celebrating yesterday at Slugger Field, marking the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese (founded, originally, in Bardstown, just a stone’s throw from Thomas Merton’s old home, the Abbey of Gethsemane)

The Courier-Journal has the story, and if you go to their link, video, too:

The 4,000 local Catholics who celebrated a multilanguage Mass yesterday to mark the bicentennial of the Archdiocese of Louisville at Slugger Field were urged to take inspiration from Kentucky’s pioneer Catholics.

That was the message Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz delivered on a windy, partly sunny afternoon that turned Louisville’s professional baseball stadium into a cathedral for the climactic celebration of the archdiocese’s 200th anniversary.

“They were not casual Catholics but were fiercely committed to the faith,” Kurtz said during the two-hour Mass. “… We as an archdiocese are called to be parishes, homes in which love is given with no strings attached.”

The Mass — followed by a series of concerts and children’s activities — drew several area bishops, dozens of priests and thousands of others, including religious sisters, schoolchildren, Scouts and colorfully dressed representatives of fraternal orders and ethnic groups.

“How proud we are to be Catholic,” Kurtz said. “How grateful we are to be a family united in Christ, and how good it is to step into the third century of the Archdiocese of Louisville together.”

He said it’s important to “know of our imperfections as a human family but to be joined to Christ … with the sinless one as our head.”

The Mass was the high point of a yearlong series of celebrations marking the 1808 establishment of the Diocese of Bardstown — later relocated to Louisville — as the oldest inland Roman Catholic jurisdiction in the United States.

The diocese, which once stretched from the Great Lakes to the Deep South, now covers 24 Central Kentucky counties, and yesterday’s Mass drew contingents from Bardstown, Shelbyville and other points.

“The roots of our Catholic faith are deep, and we are here to celebrate them,” Kurtz said.

The Mass was exciting for “all of us as a Catholic community,” said Leticia Brito, who attends St. Rita Church in Louisville. “We want 200 years more.”

“We’re blessed to see so many people here,” added Paul Barker, a member of St. Bartholomew Church in Louisville who was part of three generations of his family at the Mass — along with his wife, father-in-law and three sons, 8, 10 and 13.

“We’re trying to keep on the Catholic tradition,” he said.

Zella Fraze — one of hundreds of event volunteers wearing turquoise shirts with the archdiocese logo — called the event “a great public statement about how all of us feel about our faith.”

Kurtz said it was “a great day to come to a ballpark” and quipped that on the windy day, “even I could hit a home run in this stadium.”

The wind tugged at red and white banners that adorned the infield area, and the microphones picked up so much of the wind’s rumbling that Kurtz at one point paused to let it ebb so he could be heard.

After the service, concession stands opened, children played in playgrounds and on the stadium carousel, and a series of concerts started.

Louisville-based performers Patrick Henry Hughes — the singer, pianist and trumpeter whose triumph over congenital disabilities has drawn nationwide admiration — and the Monarchs were followed by the national act, America, best known for such 1970s hits as “Ventura Highway” and “Horse With No Name.”

The music during the Mass was accompanied by an organ, brass quintet and large choir, and ranged from modern choruses to classic hymns such as “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” an Austrian anthem that would have been familiar to many of the early German Catholic settlers in Louisville.

The mostly English liturgy was interspersed with Spanish, Vietnamese and liturgical Latin and Hebrew.

But it began with a local anthem, “My Old Kentucky Home.”

Quite an interesting music, mix, no?

Photo: by David R. Lutman / Courier-Journal

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