Saint Michael’s honors Civil Rights Champion, the Rev. Maurice Ouellet, SSE, at 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation, Jan. 24
“Maurice Ouellet is the most righteous white man in Selma,” Martin Luther King.
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To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr., Saint Michael’s College will remember the pioneering Civil Rights work of a priest of the Society of St. Edmund, the college’s founding order. The Rev. Maurice Ouellet, SSE, (1927-2011), the first Catholic priest to be inducted into the National Voting Rights Hall of Fame during the 30th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, is the focus of the MLK Convocation to be held Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 4:30 p.m. in the Saint Michael’s College Chapel.
The Rev. Richard Myhalyk, SSE, director of Edmundite Southern Missions, located in Selma, Ala., will speak on the life of Father Ouellet, a man who lived a life of conviction, bravely, quietly, relentlessly serving the African-American community of Selma from 1961-65. In 1965, Father Ouellet was forced out of Selma because of his human-rights work, just after Martin Luther King was leading the Civil Rights movement into Selma.
Dr. Dexter Criss’s Gospel Choir
Renowned choir director and SUNY Plattsburgh professor, Dr. Dexter Criss and his Gospel Choir will sing at the convocation. Students from the Saint Michael’s Center for Multicultural Affairs will give readings.
The program is presented by Saint Michael’s Martin Luther King Jr Society and sponsored by Saint Michael’s Got Skills Campaign for Dignity & Diversity, the Diversity Coalition, and the Center for Multicultural Affairs.
The Rev. Maurice Ouellet, SSE
In his life of service as a priest for over 59 years, in parishes, schools and Saint Michael’s College, Father Maurice Ouellet, SSE, spent important years in Selma. He began as assistant pastor at St. Elizabeth’s Parish in Selma, in 1952, followed by missionary work at Dauphin Island and Fowl River, Ala., both extremely needy communities, where he served until 1956. After serving at Saint Michael’s College and in Dunkirk, NY, as instructor and vice principal at Cardinal Mindszenty High School, Father Ouellet returned to Selma during the years of hardship and struggle for Civil Rights, serving from 1961-1965. Those years were followed by decades of counseling at a university in Texas and at Saint Michael’s College where he established the Student Resource Center, followed by various assignments and then his last move back to Selma in 2003, where he resided until his death in 2011.
At his induction into the National Voting Rights Hall of Fame, Alabama Superior Court Justice Ralph Cook–an African-American–paid tribute to Fr. Ouellet. “We stand,” Cook said, “on your shoulders.”
It is said that Martin Luther King called Father Ouellet “the only righteous white man in Selma.” In any case, he was well-known and highly regarded for his work during the Civil Rights movement.
The following is from “The Uncomfortable Christ” homily given by Father Maurice Ouellet, SSE, after Bloody Sunday in March 1965, in Selma, Alabama:
“I saw the face of the uncomfortable Christ, that of a boy beaten, scarred externally and internally by the fists of man’s hate. I saw the sad eyes of the uncomfortable Christ, those of a man filled with the frustration of despair for himself and his children. I saw the tears of the uncomfortable Christ, those of parents panicked by fear for their children. I heard the cries of the uncomfortable Christ, those of a people jeered at, bruised, gassed, in pain. I wiped from my cheek the blood of Christ, that of a little girl, His blood, her blood, as it poured from the side of her head cradled on my shoulder. Here was the uncomfortable Christ — the Christ of today as he ever was. And certainly he exists all around us.”