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BOSTON —“You are the body of Christ,”said Auxiliary Bishop Martin D. Holley of Washington D.C. at the 13th annual Bishop Healy Award Dinner Nov. 19. As his words boomed forth with a silencing effect upon the audience of some 350 people gathered at the Cambridge Marriott, he added, “now be Him to others.”
Bishop Holley was the keynote speaker at the event held to commemorate the life of Bishop James Augustine Healy —ordained as Bishop of Portland, Maine in 1875 —who has been recognized as the first Black Catholic bishop in the United States. The 2005 Bishop Healy Award was presented to Myer J. Chambers II, the former director of the Office for Black Catholics of the Archdiocese of Boston, in recognition of his leadership and dedication to community service.
The award is presented each year to one who has “fostered educational opportunities and demonstrated strong personal faith and compassion.”
Throughout his oration, Bishop Holley issued a three-part message of evangelization, encouragement towards vocations to the priesthood, and the exact meaning of Catholic family life.
Before his speech, Holley said he wished to offer “what you might call a pep talk…encouraging [Catholics] to be models of Christian love and charity.”
“We as a people must turn wholeheartedly back to God,”he said. “The Lord awaits us in the tabernacles around the world to adore Him.”
Speaking of the vocation to priesthood, Bishop Holley said, “there is no shortage of God’s calling, but His calling is falling on ears that don’t want to hear it,”adding that, “parents are going to have to start providing spiritual guidance [through] praying and encouraging their children to join.”
Bishop Holley offered anecdotes that showed the closeness he shared with his family as the eighth of 14 children and called Catholics to embrace Catholic family teachings through “good, holy marriages.”
He said “We are called to defend life in every form,”and added that Catholics “must embrace the pro-life cause.”
After he described the three types of people encountered in life as, “those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who look back and say, ‘what happened?’”Bishop Holley concluded his remarks and recognized Chambers’accomplishments by enthusiastically asking the crowd to join him in “celebrating someone who makes things happen.”
Chambers, who had served as the director of the Office for Black Catholics since 1991, stepped down in 2003 to accept a position as campus minister for liturgical arts at Boston College. Having begun his career teaching music in New York and then serving as music director at St. Katharine Drexel Church in Dorcester, Chambers has a long list of musical career accomplishments, including acting as the director of liturgical music at the Archdiocese of Boston’s Jubilee Masses at Foxboro Stadium in 1999 and 2000.
Guests were treated to the music of the Archdiocese of Boston Black Catholic Choir, which Chambers directs, and to the contemporary choral group “Confirmation,”which kicked off the evening with a hip-hop and gospel-styled version of Beethoven’s classical composition, “Fur Elise.”
Barbara Wilson, a past recipient of the Bishop Healy Award, helped coordinate the event. Her message congratulating Chambers in the award dinner’s program said, “Welcome to the Club —It couldn’t have happened to a better guy.”
Wilson said, “once he was no longer the director [of the Office for Black Catholics], it was natural”that Chambers would be honored for his efforts. Chambers has helped to establish several community service organizations while serving as the director and “He has taken [the office] from its infancy,”she added.
Speaking of his contribution to the Black Catholic community at large, Wilson also praised his passionate commitment to community service.
Speaking to The Pilot following the event, Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley commented on the “wonderful turnout,”saying he was “happy to be honoring such a wonderful and talented member of the community.”