Bishop Shelton Fabre receives the farewells of the Catholics of Houma-Thibodaux
When Wendy Williams Romero’s husband fell ill, she said Bishop Shelton Fabre’s kind words helped her feel at ease.
“My husband fell seriously ill a few years ago and the bishop knew about it and always asked about us,” the Houma resident said. “He is a wise and prudent shepherd of this diocese and has handled very difficult situations with grace.”
Like many residents of the Houma-Thibodaux region, Romero said she was saddened to learn of Fabre’s departure to Kentucky.
“My family and I are saddened by his passing,” she said. “We love and admire the bishop. Because my eldest son is in the seminary of this diocese and one of my daughters was a nun for three years, we got to know him, but he took the time to get to know us. We hoped that Bishop Fabre would be the one to ordain my son, so needless to say, we are very saddened. We pray for him on his new journey.
After more than eight years of serving as Bishop of Houma-ThibodauxFabre was asked last week to lead the archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky.
“This news of my new appointment surprised me as I imagine it does many of you,” Fabre said in a video Tuesday. “However, I would like to express my gratitude and support to Pope Francis, who called me to undertake the ministry of Archbishop in the Archdiocese of Louisville. I am touched by this appointment and, as I have served you, good people of our Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, I am committed to meeting the needs of the people of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Fabre, 58, succeeds Bishop Joseph Kurtz, who tendered his resignation on the occasion of his 75th birthday last August to Pope Francis. Fabre will be the fifth archbishop in the history of Louisville and the first black.
The Diocese of Louisville, with around 200,000 parishioners, has a Catholic population more than twice the size of Houma-Thibodaux, which in 2018 was around 90,000.
Fabre was appointed Bishop Houma-Thibodaux in September 2013 and was the first African-American to hold this position. He was ordained deacon in 1988 and priest in 1989 and served as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 2006 before assuming his current role at Houma-Thibodaux.
The parish presidents of Terrebonne and Lafourche said they were honored to work with Fabre and will miss the Bishop’s calm over the past two tumultuous years.
“Bishop Fabre has been a calm voice during the hardships the diocese has faced in recent years with the pandemic and more recently Hurricane Ida,” said Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson. “I wish Bishop Fabre my best wishes as he transitions to Louisville and thank him for his service to our region.”
“He was a very good bishop, honest and sincere,” added Terrebonne parish president Gordy Dove. “It was an honor and a pleasure to work with him. I have not seen a more sincere religious than Bishop Fabre. He’s a real, real caring gentleman.
Wiletta Ferdinand, a retired teacher from New Orleans, worked with Fabre in 2017 to organize a memorial mass in honor of the victims of the Massacre of Thibodaux over 130 years ago.
On November 23, 1887, at least 30 people lost their lives in a racially motivated attack by a mob of white men on black sugar plantation workers protesting a wage system that effectively kept them tied to the farms where they worked.
Ferdinand, the great-great-granddaughter of Jack Conrad – a man who was injured and whose son was killed in the massacre – said she would cherish the memories of working with Fabre.
“I was saddened by the transfer of Bishop Fabre to Kentucky, because it is so refreshing that the Catholic Church is the advocate for the tragedies of slavery and the harsh treatment of African Americans during Reconstruction,” said she declared.
“Bishop Fabre did not hesitate to come and be part of our commemoration event honoring the victims of the 1887 Thibodaux Massacre,” Ferdinand said. “We talked about his hometown of New Roads and author Ernest Gaines and how Ernest Gaines portrayed the people and history of New Roads. Bishop Fabre is first and foremost a Southern gentleman and scholar of the South, and his role in the Catholic Church makes him a much needed disciple in today’s social environment.
Darlene Martin Eschete de Gray said Fabre’s patience and tolerance for others will be missed.
“He explained whatever he needed with grace and respect for others taking into account others’ position or feelings,” said Eschete, a parishioner at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Houma. “He will be missed. My prayers are with him as he blesses others in another city and another state. terrific.
Bourg resident Denis Falgout said he will miss the Bishop’s personal attention to those he served.
“My granddaughter received the Sacrament of Confirmation this year, and he said a few words about the saint she chose as her Confirmation name,” Falgout said. “He did this for every confirming person. It is a wealth of knowledge.
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Ernie Babin Jr. said Fabre’s calm demeanor helped put the community at ease during difficult times.
“I will miss his demeanor and calm,” the Houma resident said. “I don’t know how calm he was on the inside, but he certainly didn’t project it in his actions and words.”
The search for a new bishop in Houma-Thibodaux could take up to eight months, church officials said. The process of finding a new church leader will begin March 30, when Fabre is installed as Archbishop of Louisville.
The process involves consultations and discussions about which candidate would best suit the diocese in question, officials said.
Houma resident Amanda Naquin Pitre said she will miss Fabre’s soothing voice and peaceful personality.
“I love celebrating Mass with him,” she said. “Although my heart is sad for our diocese, I am thrilled that others can experience his guidance. God bless him on his continued journey.
Sandra Machen, from Chauvin, said Fabre’s kind and sweet words were powerful enough to reach everyone in the diocese.
“He was so humble, wise and hardworking,” she said. “He stepped in and helped our people after Hurricane Ida. Louisville gets the best archbishop. I pray that we also get a good bishop as understanding and compassionate as he was.”
– Editor Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.