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Legatus Magazine

Brian Fraga | author
Oct 01, 2019
Filed under Chaplains

Houma-Thibodaux chaplain heads bishops’ committee against racism


Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana grew up as the fifth of six children. When he and his siblings had disagreements, his parents had a simple rule.

“My mother would say, ‘Unless there’s blood or the police involved, figure it out yourselves,’” Bishop Fabre said with a laugh while recalling his childhood in New Roads, Louisiana.

Now 57, Bishop Fabre recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of his priestly ordination. He has been the bishop of Houma-Thibodaux since October 2013, and is the chaplain of Legatus’ Houma-Thibodaux Chapter.

More recently, in his position as chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Bishop Fabre has overseen the implementation of “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love — A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved at their November 2018 general meeting in Baltimore.

When did you first believe you were called to be a priest?

My call came from a priest. I was an altar server, around six or seven years, when the priest said, “You know, you should be a priest.” He said that to all the altar servers. But with me, it kind of stuck and it stayed with me from that point forward.

When did you enter seminary?

That is quite a story. I actually went to a high school seminary. I stayed three days, absolutely hated it and left. I said, “Okay Lord, I gave you a shot. I’m done.” I then went to a local Catholic high school. In my senior year, one of my brothers died of leukemia. That kind of event will have even a young person reflecting on life and suffering. So, I thought that maybe I wanted to be a priest after all. I went back to the seminary in college, and here I am today.

What was it about the high school seminary that you found off-putting?

I think I was just too young to leave my family. It was mostly homesickness. I just wanted to go home.

What was it like growing up as the fifth of six children?

There was always great activity in the house. Being one of six children, I think you learn to share everything you have, including a bedroom. The only person in our house who had her own room was my sister because she was the only girl. All the boys were shoved into one bedroom. You had your side of the bed and your area, but we learned to share what we had.

What lessons did your parents teach you?

My father was often asked which child he loved the most. My father had a response that always stuck with me. He always said, “The one who needed it most at the time.” I think that’s a great insight into both love and being loved.

What have been your impressions of Legatus since becoming a chapter chaplain?

I find that the people in Legatus are very faith-filled people who want to do the right thing. They are people who want to learn more, all that they can, about their faith. They are people who really do want to bring to their businesses, the Catholic faith. They are trying to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and bring that relationship to every aspect of their lives.

As chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad-Hoc Committee Against Racism, what makes this the right time for the Church to address racism?

I think that racism is an evil and a sin that we need to constantly be on guard against, rooting out of our lives and rooting out of society. I think this is another time when the bishops, and we all, need to be on-guard with regard to respecting the human dignity of each and every person. And that is what is at the very heart of “Open Wide Our Hearts.” The bishops make it very clear that racism is a life issue.


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