“Gathered Together to Encounter as One!” was the theme at this year’s annual Mass commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hosted by the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary, the Jan. 20 evening celebration at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, with Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark presiding, was a spirited occasion punctuated by powerful music, energetic performers and a message of unity and solidarity.

“We are here to celebrate the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Magna Gibbs, parishioner at Transfiguration Church in Los Angeles. “And we are encouraging our children to follow in his footsteps,” added fellow parishioner Carol James.

A large contingency from the Leimert Park parish was present at the Eucharistic celebration. Transfiguration youth --- who earlier marched in the city’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade --- played in the drum team, sang in the choir and performed liturgical dance at the opening and closing processions, pounding out infectious rhythms which got the assembly clapping and swaying.

In his homily Father Michael Ume, pastor of St. Bernard Church in Bellflower, encouraged attendees to consider how God encounters them daily. “When you encounter God, you will exhale materialism and inhale simplicity, you will exhale injustice and inhale justice, you will exhale revenge and inhale forgiveness,” he said.

Toward the end of the celebration, Bishop Clark installed the newly elected officers of the Knights of Peter Claver and its Ladies Auxiliary, and representatives from the Knights of Peter Claver Western States District addressed the assembly. Lady Renita Lloyd-Smith reminded them that this is a day not just for African Americans to celebrate their history, “but all Americans.”

“Even though Martin Luther King was not Catholic, we honor him as a spiritual man and a man of God with this Mass in his name,” said Anderson Shaw, director of the African American Catholic Center for Evangelization who helped organize the service. “This is a celebration of Dr. King and an appreciation of what he did --- but moreover, we want our children and the next generation to carry on his work.”