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A Shared Promise and More: Coretta Scott King & Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Dr. William C. Welburn, vice president for inclusive excellence for Marquette University’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion

One of the extraordinary passages in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is deeply personal. It is his courtship and marriage to Coretta Scott. They met in Boston – he a doctoral student at Boston University, and she a bachelor of music student in voice at the New England Conservatory of Music. Historians such as Clayborne Carson and Jeanne Theoharis have noted that at the time they met, Coretta was more politically active than Martin, having been involved in the postwar peace movement and her campus’ chapter of the NAACP.

When Carson spoke here at Marquette two years ago in a remembrance of King 50 years after his assassination, he read from the text of an exchange of letters between Coretta and Martin. She made it clear that the traditional role of a preacher’s wife had little appeal. She challenged him to do more, to share her commitment to fundamental rights. Carson and Theoharis both pointed to a “socialist utopian novel” she sent Martin, inquiring: “I shall be interested to know your reactions to Bellamy’s predictions about our future.”

In the years after that historic evening on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, when Martin Luther King was assassinated, Coretta Scott King did not simply continue Martin Luther King’s work. Her presence in the Poor People’s Campaign and with Black women hospital workers in Charleston, South Carolina in 1968 and 1969 respectively signaled her resolve to be the voice for human rights on the global stage that she had always been. And for the rest of her life, she was there fighting against Apartheid in South Africa and the war in Iraq, supporting gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights, and as a voice in peace, racial justice and human rights movements around the world.

One might say that Coretta and Martin shared a promise to one another that was greater than most couples. But there is more to the story.

To understand Martin Luther King is to appreciate all of those who influenced him and helped him find voice in troubled times, whether that influence came from the wisdom of Bayard Rustin, the activism of John Lewis, or power of Mahalia Jackson. They all helped him understand and value nonviolence, rights across the lines that society draws on race and gender, and the commitment to peace in our world. But the most profound and intergenerational message to all of us may come from Coretta Scott King, who once said, “Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.”

All are invited to a Prayer Service in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Wednesday, January 15 at 8:30 a.m. in the Chapel of the Holy Family (AMU). Come reflect on the words of Dr. King and other human rights leaders through readings, prayer and song followed by refreshments at 9:30 a.m. in the AMU Rotunda. Event Sponsors: Raynor Memorial Libraries, Campus Ministry, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, the Center for Peacemaking and the English Department.

Encountering God in the Silence: Silent Directed Retreat

By Megan Sheehan, communications coordinator, Campus Ministry

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.” — Mother Teresa

What keeps us from getting to know God better? What gets in the way of us basking in the reality of God’s love for us?

Last week, 26 members of the Marquette community—undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, faculty and staff—set out to eliminate some of the distractions present in daily life by way of the Silent Directed Retreat. Hosted by Campus Ministry and the Faber Center, the retreat was held at the Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

I have no doubt that the fruits of this silence were as diverse as the retreat participants. As a spiritual director present for the journey, what I witnessed reinforced the value of taking a step back to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Such a pause allows us to look back at our lives and consider how God has carried us and graced us to get to the places in our lives today.

What a privilege, what a gift—to retreat in the beautiful surroundings afforded by a trip to this setting in Oshkosh and to pray, reflect and think among community without saying a word. It is a blessing that the university offers this opportunity for Marquette community members to find out for themselves that, “in the silence of the heart, God speaks.”

On the horizon of a new semester of literal and figurative noise, may we all pray for each other—that even if we aren’t able to embark on a silent retreat, that we might find ways to make room for God in our daily hustle and bustle. May we find moments to set aside all the significant things that call our attention for intentional encounters with the attention of God.

For reflection: What stands between you and God? How might you invite God into your own efforts to eliminate these obstacles?

(Above Image: From the Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh, WI)

What's coming up in Campus Ministry?

January 2020 
January 13-21 (Mon.-Tues.): Liturgical Choir Auditions 
January 15 (Wed.): Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast | Chapel of the Holy Family | 8:30 a.m. 
January 15 (Wed.): 
Soup with Substance “MLK Jr.” |AMU 157 | Noon 
January 15 (Wed.): March for Life Pre-Pilgrimage Meeting | AMU | 5:30 p.m. 
January 15 (Wed.): No
January 16 (Thurs.): O-Fest | AMU Ballrooms | 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. 
January 20 (Mon.): Retreats Reunion | AMU | 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  
January 22 (Wed.): 
Soup with Substance “Wings Scholarship/Highlighting Non-European Abroad Experience” | AMU 227 | Noon 
January 22 (Wed.): 
Ignite “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere: Mixing Faith & Going Out” | Chapel of the Holy Family | 7:30 p.m. 
January 22 (Wed.): 
Midnight Run Sign ups | AMU Ballrooms AB 8-10 p.m. 
January 22 (Wed.): National Day of Prayer for Life | Joan of Arc | Noon & 10 p.m. Masses 
January 23-25 (Thurs.-Sat.): 
March for Life Pilgrimage | Washington, D.C. 
January 25-26 (Sat.-Sun.): Midyear Liturgical Choir Retreat | Holy Hill 
January 25-27 (Sat.-Mon.): Catholic Social Ministry Gathering | Washington, D.C. 
January 26 (Sun.): Spanish Mass | Chapel of the Holy Family | 4:30 p.m. 
January 26 (Sun.): 
Midnight Run Volunteer Orientation | AMU Ballrooms AB 6-8:30 p.m. 
January 28 (Tues.): 
M.A.P. applications due online by 4 p.m. 
January 29 (Wed.): 
Soup with Substance “Toward the Texture of Knowing” | AMU 227 | Haggerty 
January 29 (Wed.): 
Ignite “Doubt” | Chapel of the Holy Family | 7:30 p.m. 

February 2020 
February 2 (Sat.): 
Rite of Anointing of Catechumen | Chapel of the Holy Family | 9 p.m. 
February 3-9 (Mon.-Sun.): Mission Week: Labyrinth with Prayer Guide on Holly Schapker’s paintings contained in her work: ADSUM: Contemporary Paintings on Ignatian Spirituality | AMU Ballrooms 
February 5 (Wed.): 
Soup with Substance “Mission Week” | AMU 157 |Noon 
February 5 (Wed.): 
Ignite “Gratitude” | Lunda Room | 7:30 p.m. 
February 5 (Wed.): Spanish Mass | St. Joan of Arc Chapel | 10 p.m. 

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Marquette University Campus Ministry · PO Box 1881 · Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881 · USA

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