LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre, the newly appointed archbishop of the Archdiocese of Louisville, celebrated a Mass at Holy Family Church Feb. 8, saying to the congregation that his prayer for the archdiocese — his new home — is that “we will grow in our love for God and grow in our love for each other.”

“To do so is a response to God who is laboring in every moment to love us first,” said Fabre.

During the liturgy, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz — who has led the archdiocese since 2007 — welcomed Archbishop Fabre, calling the news of his appointment “joyous.”

Kurtz said he has known Archbishop Fabre for many years.

“He’s a good friend of mine and he will be a good friend of yours,” said Kurtz.

During the homily, Archbishop Fabre shared that between leaving his Louisiana home and coming to Louisville, his heart is divided.

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“It delights me to be here today to greet this new home that is mine. It’s my honor and privilege to serve you, the good people of the Archdiocese of Louisville,” he said. “I welcome this opportunity to meet you and yet my heart is divided for my family in Thibodaux who is learning today of the news that I am not with them. So my heart is divided today and I acknowledge that.”

Fabre is not only leaving the members of the clergy, religious and faithful in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, which he has led since 2013, he’s also leaving his siblings, he said.

He went on to discuss the day’s Scripture, noting that God is with us when we struggle. He drew the congregation’s attention to the first reading from the book of 1 Kings:

“Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below; you keep covenant and love toward your servants who walk before you with their whole heart,'” he said, quoting the reading. “With their whole heart, with their whole heart,” he repeated.

“God wants us. He wants our hearts and he wants our whole heart,” said Fabre.

Giving one’s whole heart to God is difficult, the archbishop said. He noted that he once heard a new priest say after ordination, “‘I gave my life to God and I’ve been fighting with him since then trying to take it back.’ That describes me and perhaps it describes you too. … We all desire to give the Lord our heart, but to surrender our whole hearts is difficult.”

God, however, is willing to help in that struggle, he said.

“When we struggle and can’t do it on our own, he simply asks us to ask him for help. … When we discover places in our hearts that are afraid, fighting for self-sufficiency, the Lord simply asks us to ask him, ‘Incline my heart to you, oh God,'” said Fabre.

“Today let’s ask for grace to love God in return,” he continued. “Let us ask for grace to give the Lord our whole heart and when that requires more than we can offer, let us simply say, ‘Incline my heart to you, oh God.'”

Following the Mass, Fabre held a news conference at the Archdiocese of Louisville Pastoral Center, where he spoke to members of the media and answered questions.

He will be installed as the fifth archbishop of Louisville March 30 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville.

Thomas is a reporter at The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville.