Newspaper Archive of
Arkansas Catholic
Little Rock, Arkansas
October 24, 1998     Arkansas Catholic
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October 24, 1998

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/ included meeting the spiritual and material needs of Japanese- Americans detained in camps throughout Arkansas. Bishop Fletcher enlisted the Maryknoll Fathers to help him in this work with refugees. Implementing the social gospel A longer lasting struggle would be that of defining and implementing the Catholic posi- tion during the battle over civil rights and integration. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1954 outlawing segregation in this country would have many reper- cussions in the diocese. The bishop banned further building projects for strictly black 18 / Catholics' use. Though he him- self had grown up in the segre- gated environment of earlier decades, Bishop Fletcher was firm in his belief that racial seg- regation and discrimination were morally wrong, and now constitutionally unallowable. He moved prudently so as not to alienate or stir up animosities further, but instead contributed by his exhortations and actions to a moderate approach to the transition. The Little Rock school crisis was trial by fire. Gov. Orval Faubus ordered the state's National Guard to block black students from entering public Central High School in 195Z Federal troops were called in to While attending, sessions of the Second Vatican Council in 1964 Bishop Fletcher celebrated Mass at St. Susanna Church in Rome. J protect and escort black stU" dents. Striking back, the Little Rock School Board closed public schools for 1958-1959. It wasn't until the 70s that all public schools would reopen to all stY" dents. Bishop Fletcher called for special prayer and considerati# by all Catholics. "Integratio is the law, and it is wrong to I: interfere with its peaceful guration," he told the faithful i0 the diocesan newspaper, l'he Guardian. He backed up his appeal with integration io Catholic institutions, includi0 St. Vincent Infirmary and otBer Catholic hospitals. The proceSS of dismantling racial prejudice and educating the faithful # how faith intersected wit3 human rights was a tall order for the tall bishop. He met the chal" lenge with wisdom and courage and sometimes with duresS, as he watched several black parislr es close for many reasons ottaer than the segregation order. The 1960s were still a period of numerous vocations. Exp#' sion at St. John SernirtarY Arkansas catl~oliC