Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory will be the principal celebrant and homilist at the Archdiocese of Washington’s annual Mass honoring the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, which will be held this year on Saturday, Jan. 16, at 5 p.m.

The Mass will be celebrated at St. Teresa of Avila Church, 1244 V Street in Southeast Washington. However, because of the ongoing pandemic, seating is limited at the church, and the faithful are encouraged to watch the Mass via livestream at https://adw.org/event/rev-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-celebration/ or on the Archdiocese of Washington’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o84DHDU64kU&feature=youtu.be.

Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Cultural Diversity, the Mass is offered each year as part of the archdiocese's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. This year, cosponsors of the celebration include The Catholic University of America’s Center for Cultural Engagement and Bison Catholic, the Howard University Catholic Newman Club.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, there will be no choir at the Mass and all songs will be performed via prerecorded video. Also, during the Mass, there will be a Family Prayer For Justice and Human Dignity (anti-racism prayer) offered after Communion.

The Mass and celebration are held annually near Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal holiday observed on the third Monday of January. This year, the holiday will be observed Jan. 18.

On Jan. 18, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington is hosting a Martin Luther King Day Jr. Day of Service project. That project is fully booked and accepting no more volunteers, however, Catholic Charities is holding other service projects the rest of that week.

Persons interested in volunteering can visit Catholic Charities’ volunteer page at catholiccharitiesdc.org/volunteer to discover opportunities to serve. For those who cannot participate in the volunteer efforts, Catholic Charities is asking interested persons to make and donate masks to help ensure the safety of staff and clients.

On Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. King was among the leaders who organized a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march included a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that was opened with an invocation by then-Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle of Washington. It was at that rally that Dr. King delivered the now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Last year, marking the 57th anniversary of that march with an Aug. 28 Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral, then-Archbishop Wilton Gregory announced a new archdiocesan initiative, “Made in God’s Image: Pray and Work to End the Sin of Racism.” He said the initiative was created to “fight against racial injustice everywhere.”

For more information on that initiative, visit https://adw.org/living-the-faith/our-cultures/anti-racism-initiative/.

Dr. King was assassinated almost 53 years ago. In late March 1968, he traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to support black sanitation public works employees who were on strike seeking higher wages and better working conditions. On April 4 of that year, Dr. King – standing on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel – was mortally wounded by a gunshot fired by James Earl Ray. He was taken to St. Joseph Hospital, where after emergency surgery he was pronounced dead. 

Cardinal Gregory has a long association with the late civil rights leader.

Cardinal Gregory previously served as archbishop of Atlanta, Dr. King's birthplace. He has preached in Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where both Dr. King and his father preached, and in 2006, he was inducted into the Martin Luther King Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta.