By Maureen Smith
CANTON – Deacon Art Miller wants every person he meets to know how important they are to God. The value of each individual played an important part in his homily for the diocesan Black History Month and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mass at Holy Child Jesus Parish on Saturday, Feb. 25. Bishop Joseph Kopacz concelebrated the mass with Father Michael O’Brien, pastor at Canton Sacred Heart and Father Jeremy Tobin, OPraem, one of the Norbertines from Raymond. The Knights and Ladies of Peter Claver attended in regalia.
“I enjoyed this program to the highest. It was so uplifting and spiritual,” said Myrtle Otto, parishioner at Holy Child Jesus. “The speaker was dynamic and he needs to come back again, we love him. Just talking about the spirit of where we come from, our ancestors and our goal to keep going and don’t stop supporting our culture – we should always embrace that and teach our children,” she continued.
Tereza Ma, Mississippi Catholic’s production manager, attended the Mass. “Deacon Miller’s speech was intense and his firm but friendly voice danced around. I like how he engaged the audience,” she said. “He spoke about value and he used brilliant example of the $100 bill – even if it is torn in half, stepped on or shredded onto little pieces – it is still a $100 bill – it has the same value,” she continued. Deacon Miller often preaches about what he calls ‘radical love’ which has to do with accepting the grace and power offered only by Christ. “He emphasized in his homily that God sees the best of us no matter what the other people see or say,” said Ma.
Other attendees agreed. “I thought the program was absolutely wonderful. Deacon Miller did a wonderful job in reminding us how important we are. We are very important in the eyes of God and that was a point well made,” said John Conway.
The Canton gospel choir added their voices and some color to the program. The choir director’s sister made cloth flower pins out of African kente cloth for the people of the parish, explaining that these are the colors of celebration.
After Mass, the community gathered for a picnic on the church grounds. This celebration was originally slated for January in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, but an ice storm made travel too dangerous. Deacon Miller made time on his first visit to visit with students at several schools and was generous enough to offer to return for a Black History Month Celebration. He stopped by several more schools on this return visit – teaching the students about black Catholic history and culture and delivering his message of God’s love for all.
His presentation at Greenville St. Joseph School made an impression on the juniors and seniors. This was “very inspirational and heartwarming. He truly has a passion for inspiring others,” said senior Christen Thompson.
“He absolutely touched these students’ hearts and minds. Hopefully – and I believe it will – this will move them in the right direction,” commented Debbie Williams, a teacher at St. Joseph.
(Missi Blackstock, public relations director for St. Joseph School contributed to this story).