Using St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ disciples casting their nets, newly appointed Bishop Shelton Joseph Fabre of the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese challenged Catholics “to go into the deep” as Jesus calls them.
At just 50 years old, Fabre was installed Wednesday as the fourth bishop of Houma-Thibodaux Diocese at the Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales. The diocese was founded in 1977.
He is the youngest African-American ordinary in the United States. An ordinary is a church leader for a jurisdiction.
Those people who completely surrender to Jesus’ call can find refuge in whatever ways the “miraculous catch of fish manifests itself,” Fabre said in his homily.
The diocese includes Lafourche, Terrebonne, and parts of St. Mary, Jefferson, St. Martin and Assumption parishes.
Clergy from other states and even outside the country attended the installation Mass.
“I must admit that as I have been driving along the bayous in my initial ventures into the diocese, I actually envisioned Pere Menard, Father Souby, another pioneer in faith, and our other ancestors in faith traveling in the area as best they could to bring the presence and comfort of the church to so many,” Fabre said in his homily.
Fabre had served as Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans since 2009.
The Rev. Greg Fratt of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Morgan City, who was in attendance, said the installation was “high church at its best with the celebration.”
Fabre’s homily instructed people to go places with the good news that “we normally wouldn’t go,” Fratt said.
Fabre replaced Bishop Emeritus Sam Jacobs, 75, who announced his retirement in September. Jacobs served as bishop of the diocese for 10 years. Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans installed Fabre in the presence of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.
Fabre, a native of New Roads who has been a priest for 25 years, thanked Viganò for “bringing the presence of our Holy Father, Pope Francis” and asked him to assure Francis “of the prayerful support and love of the people” of the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese.
Central Catholic Principal Deacon Vic Bonnaffee, who also attended the ceremony, said Fabre’s use of the “casting of the nets into the deep” in his homily was beautiful when he challenged all Catholics to live social justice by showing respect for all life from natural birth to natural death.
Bonnaffee said the rites of installation are “such a beautiful and magnificent service built in tradition that really explains the full understanding of what we are as Catholics in a diocese to be able to be under the authority of a bishop.”
Fabre spoke on new evangelization, which means Catholics are supposed to act out their faith and challenge others to become part of the Christian and the Catholic faith, Bonnaffee said.
“I was so impressed by his comments on the people of God and the people of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, which, to me, makes me believe that he’s going to be a pastoral bishop that is going to walk amongst us and that he wants to be a part of the culture. He wants to be a part of the people, and he wants to be present for them in our Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux,” Bonnaffee said.
Fratt said Fabre’s direction for the diocese is clear in his motto “comfort my people” which is on his coat of arms. Fabre also brings humility to the position, he said.
Fabre is “very much like Pope Francis” with his gentle spirit and openness, Fratt said. “All of the priests are elated. With his appointment, the future for us is really bright.”
the bishop’s installation
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Archdiocese of New Orleans
Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi, Archdiocese of Mobile.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archdiocese of Louisville.
Archbishop Emeritus John Clement Favalora, Archdiocese of Miami.
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Dominick Carmon, Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Bishop Robert Muench, Diocese of Baton Rouge.
Bishop Emeritus Sam G. Jacobs, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.
Bishop Michael Jarrell, Diocese of Lafayette.
Bishop Joseph Latino, Diocese of Jackson, Miss.
Bishop Emeritus William R. Houck, Diocese of Jackson, Miss.
Bishop Roger P. Morin, Diocese of Biloxi, Miss.
Auxiliary Bishop David P. Talley, Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Bishop Terry Steib, Diocese of Memphis.
Bishop Daniel E. Flores, Diocese of Brownsville, Texas.
Bishop Hebert A. Bevard, Diocese of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger, Diocese of Salina, Kan.
Bishop Ronald Herzog, Diocese of Alexandria.
Bishop Emeritus David E. Foley, Diocese of Birmingham.
Bishop Emeritus John Ricard, Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.
Bishop Emeritus Joseph Lawson Howze, Diocese of Biloxi.
Bishop Curtis J. Guillory, SVD, Diocese of Beaumont, Texas.
Bishop David R. Choby, Diocese of Nashville, Tenn.
Bishop Martin D. Holley, Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
Bishop Stephen Mamza, Diocese of Yola, Nigeria.
Abbot Justin Brown, St. Joseph’s Abbey.
Bishop Warren L. Boudreaux was installed in 1977.
Bishop Michael Jarrell was installed in 1993.
Bishop Sam G. Jacobs was installed in 2003.