People of all faiths came out for the 2024 Archdiocesan Interfaith Prayer Service Jan. 14 in commemoration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Chester with Archbishop Pérez presiding.  It was sponsored by the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics, the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing, and parishes that serve Black Catholic communities.

This annual event takes place at locations throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia each year on a rotational basis. This year marked the first time it was held at St. Katharine Drexel since the 1990s.

The evening combined prayer, Scripture, and reflections, along with performances by several choirs, including the St. Rose of Lima Independence Mission School Choir, St. John Chrysostom Church Choir, and the Philadelphia Catholic Gospel Mass Choir. The event’s theme was “I Have a Dream.”

“It was Dr. King’s dream that people of different ethnicities, cultures, religious backgrounds could all come together just like this,” said Deacon James Mahoney, the evening’s homilist, who is assigned to St. Athanasius Parish and serves as the Associate Director of the Basilica Shrine of the Miraculous Medal.

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Rev. Robert Ianelli, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel, said the parish was honored to host this year’s interfaith celebration especially giving Dr. King’s connection to the community. Dr. King studied at the former Crozer Theological Seminary in nearby Upland from 1948-1951.

“We have a connection in this community bringing all faiths together in fulfilling his dream,” said Father Ianelli.

Father Ianelli gave an introduction expressing his gratitude to Archbishop Pérez for visiting the parish community and its neighboring friends.

During the opening prayer, parishioner Mary Lopez thanked God for the beautiful celebration reminding the faithful, “We come together in unity as one celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

Several passages of Scripture were then proclaimed and reflected upon by area clergy members, including Rabbi Chana Leslie Glazer, Interim Rabbi at Temple Brith Achim of King of Prussia and Dr. Keith Reeves, member of Calvary Baptist Church and Professor at Swarthmore College.

During the prayer service, prayer cards were distributed so faithful could write their petitions. They proceeded up the aisle to place them in the collection basket as the song “We Are One, Lord” was sung.

In his closing remarks, Archbishop Pérez recognized Stacy Williams who will succeed Kimberly Walker as the Director of the Office for Black Catholics in the Archdiocese. He also reminded the congregation of Dr. King’s dream and how it took so much time and effort

“Happy are those who have dreams but are willing to pay the price and make them come true,” said Archbishop Pérez. “Whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

All three choirs joined together to sing “We Shall Overcome” as an additional reminder of Dr. King’s dream. Archbishop Pérez gave a final blessing encouraging everyone go forth embracing the words light, perseverance, and hope.

“Whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward,” said the archbishop.