By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Deacon Art Miller of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., is the homilist for this year’s diocesan Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial celebration and Mass, sponsored by the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, set for Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, at 2 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle.
Deacon Miller believes in thoughtful action, not just words. “The whole idea of celebrating Dr. King’s birthday is celebrating peace and justice and righteousness,” said Deacon Miller. “The prophet Micah said ‘do justice,’ he didn’t say form a committee,” he added.
He is a nationally known revivalist, preacher and radio host. He calls on people to embrace what he calls radical love. He has been active in the Black Lives Matter movement and is the former head of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries in his home diocese.
“Deacon Art is an everyday kind of guy who leverages his life experiences to make the Gospel relevant and impactful to all, regardless of their knowledge of scripture. Considering the times we are living in, his message will leave you wanting to improve your relationship with God,” said Will Jemison, coordinator for the Office of Black Catholic Ministry.
Deacon Miller said most Catholics need a reminder to take what they get out of Mass and put it into practice in their daily lives. “Do you know what I wish we said at the end of Mass? ‘The Mass has ended, now the work begins,’” he said. He calls Mass just the start of the conversation with God. “We need to apply what we do Sunday morning to the rest of the week,” he explained.
“Deacon Art Miller is not only an engaging speaker, he is also an effective motivator. He genuinely has walked the walk, not just talked the talk,” said Fran Lavelle, director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson. “He gently calls us to our most noble calling, that of Catholic Christian disciple and does in an affirming way,” she continued.
Deacon Miller has a long-standing connection to Mississippi. He was a friend of Emmitt Till, the 14-year-old Chicago native who was beaten and lynched in Mississippi 50 years ago. Deacon Miller wrote a book, “The Journey to Chatham,” about the impact the killing had on his community hundreds of miles away. He said it woke him up to what the Civil Rights Movement was all about. “It was personal. It no longer became a faded black and white picture in a history book,” he said.
Deacon Miller went on to become an activist for justice and racial reconciliation. Mississippi plays an important role in that effort. “The borders of Mississippi are the U.S. borders in terms of who we are as a people,” he said. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Deacon Miller spent time in Bay St. Louis helping people clean out and repair their homes. “When someone you love dies, you have a kind of joyous sorrow. That’s my relationship with Mississippi.”
In addition to speaking at the MLK celebration, Deacon Miller plans to visit several schools in the diocese.
All are welcome at the event, but larger groups should notify the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, 601- 949-6935.
By Maureen Smith