Last Sunday I had the honor of being the guest speaker for the annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary, about an hour’s drive from Notre Dame. I was deeply moved by the experience, both by the event itself and by the condition of the surrounding community. My family and I arrived early for the event (I wanted to be certain of getting there on time), so we drove around the city for about 20 minutes. It was a shocking experience to see the extent of the city’s decay, a landscape of empty brown fields, decaying buildings, and wrecked and abandoned homes, surely one of the most devastated urban settings in America.
I was depressed and shaken as we approached the Cathedral for the event, but everything changed the moment we entered the door, the gloom of the surrounding city giving way to hope and a spirit of friendship and love from the people inside. We were warmly welcomed and escorted to our places in the magnificent sanctuary of the Cathedral. During the program we were treated to the glorious sounds of the Wirt-Emerson Concert Choir, one of the finest high school musical ensembles I’ve ever heard. As I prepared to give my remarks I felt wonder and gratitude for the many people who make the Cathedral a joyous place of hope, a fortress of faith.
I came away from the event convinced that we at Notre Dame can and must do more to support our neighbors, who live so near, share our values, and urgently need our help to realize Dr. King’s dream of a better tomorrow.
Here is a news account of the event. In my next post, I’ll excerpt a few passages from my remarks.