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St. Augustine parishioner Allen Anderson (left) carries son Mason while his wife Shareka Anderson holds a sign during the march. The family was joined by nephew Cyntonio Dicus of North Little Rock (right). (Dwain Hebda photo) Dominic Mitchell, 3, leaves candy in a neighbor’s mailbox, assisted by his mother, Dionne Mitchell, during the march in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., hosted Jan 17 by St. Augustine Church in North Little Rock. (Dwain Hebda photo)

St. Augustine Church leads MLK march in community

Historically Black parishes held Masses in place of diocesan Martin Luther King Jr. Mass

Published: January 20, 2021      
Dwain Hebda
Father Leon W. Ngandu, SVD, pastor of St. Augustine Church in North Little Rock, blesses the crowd Jan. 17 during a closing prayer in thanksgiving for the day’s march in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The church, one of just a few Black Catholic churches in the state, sponsored the neighborhood march, which attracted more than 50 parishioners and guests. The event followed Mass concelebrated by Father Ngandu and Father Warren Harvey, the first Black priest ordained in the Diocese of Little Rock.

Congregants and guests attending Mass at St. Augustine Church in North Little Rock capped their worship with a four-block march in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday, Jan. 17. More than 50 marchers followed a motorcycle escort through the neighborhood, including parishioner and state Rep. Denise Ennett. 

“It’s all about community,” she said. “In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, we’re here today to promote community and to let everybody know that there’s still work that needs to be done. I’m encouraged by the optimistic nature of everybody. We are going through a lot of trying times, but deep down we have a lot of great people out there that are wanting to continue Dr. Martin Luther King’s great work.” 

As marchers wound their way through the neighborhood, they left bags of candy on residents’ stoops and porches, while recordings of Dr. King’s speeches played over loudspeakers. Parishioner Dionne Mitchell marched with her young son Dominic. 

“It makes me feel good that people are recognizing how important this man is. Hopefully they will recognize his message and actually take his message and do something with that message,” she said. “This is my church and we’re celebrating Martin Luther King. That’s what brings me out. Gotta celebrate the man!” 

At the conclusion of the event, pastor Father Leon W. Ngandu, SVD, was all smiles.  

“The whole state of Arkansas, we just have three primarily Black Catholic churches, and St. Augustine is one of the churches,” he said. “As the pastor of St. Augustine Church I feel great, because this is the first time we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King in our church. So, I am very happy.” 

St. Peter Church in Pine Bluff and St. Bartholomew Church in Little Rock also had their own MLK Masses this year instead of hosting a joint Mass at the Cathedral of St. Andrew as planned.

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