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Boston prayer breakfast celebrates legacy of Dr. King

By Mark Labbe
Posted: 1/22/2016

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Rev. Gloria E. White-Hammond joins hands with attendees at the 31st Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Service and Breakfast at St. Katharine Drexel Parish singing "We Shall Overcome." Pilot photo/Mark Labbe

DORCHESTER -- Approximately 175 people crowded into St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Dorchester, Jan. 18, to eat breakfast, participate in prayer, and celebrate the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the 31st Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Service and Breakfast.

Sponsored by St. Katharine Drexel Parish and The Office for Black Catholic Ministries, the prayer breakfast began with a Call to Worship, which was followed by an invocation and words of welcome from Sister Tess Brown, SCN.

"We gather in this hall to celebrate our brother, our brother Dr. King, who was the moral compass in our community, in our country, in our world," said Sister Tess.

Hymns were sung by the Archdiocese of Boston Black Catholic Choir, Scripture passages were read, and a prayer of thanksgiving was given by Father Gerald Osterman, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Everett.

"Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace. Help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day when all God's children, black, white, brown, and yellow, will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the reign of our Lord and of our God," he said in his prayer.

After breakfast was served, an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech was read, and those in attendance were asked trivia questions about King's life.

Rev. Gloria E. White-Hammond was the featured speaker for the breakfast. A minister and a physician, as well as co-pastor of the Bethel AME Church in Boston, White-Hammond spoke about King's conviction to stand by his cause.

"(King) didn't have to risk his life and limb for the cause of social justice, he didn't have to position himself to be stabbed with a letter opener by a deranged woman and ultimately shot down by James Earl Ray -- but he did," she said.

White-Hammond also spoke about Nelson Mandela, as well as her own efforts to promote social justice and equality.

She talked about one of her trips to South Sudan, in which she encountered an 11 year old cowherder whose master cut his nose off with an axe after he lost a cow. She said she felt a "sense of inadequacy" that night, but that God came to her.

"So on a dark night in a desert in Sudan, God reminded me that I stood on the shoulders of sheroes and heroes, like Martin King, and Harriet Tubman, and four little girls killed in the bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church, and three grown men, Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman, who disappeared one night in Mississippi," she said.

"So after that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I and five other warrior women said yes to God, and we founded My Sister's Keeper," she continued.

My Sister's Keeper, its official notes, is a "faith-inspired, multi-racial, collective of women who work together to lend sisterly assistance to communities of women in various locations throughout the World."

Near the end of the breakfast, Alvin Shiggs of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Roxbury delivered the Martin Luther King, Jr. Litany with responses from the congregation.

Lorna DesRoses, Black Catholic Ministries coordinator, delivered the acknowledgements, thanking those in attendance.

"We thank you for coming out to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King. It is important for us, as we move forward, to look back, and this is our way of looking back and acknowledging that we stand on the shoulders of Dr. King," she said.

The breakfast ended with a benediction and the hymn "We Shall Overcome." Those in attendance held hands, stood up, and sang along with the hymn.

Joe Johnson acted as emcee for the event, while students from Nativity Preparatory School in Boston acted as greeters and assisted at the event.

The next event sponsored by St. Katharine Drexel Parish and The Office for Black Cathtolic Ministries will be a Mass to celebrate Black History Month on Feb. 7 at 11:30 a.m. at the parish.