The 11th annual Sisters Home Visitors of Mary Gala was held at the beautiful and historic Sacred Heart Seminary on October 4, 2015. The evening’s wonderful and fitting theme was Celebration of Black Catholic life in Detroit.
Three special people were honored, each of whom has long shared the Home Visitors’ vision of enculturating the Gospel and taking it into peoples’ homes:
Karla Cole Green continues the funeral home started by her father which has served African-American families and parishes in Detroit for many years. She underwrote the Josephite calendars that brought Black religious art into many homes and religion classes. See the full testimonial to Karla by clicking here.
Karla Cole Green and special guest
John Fleming, a professional teacher, taught in HVM Vacation Bible Schools, served St. Benedict the Moor parish, and preserves the Black Catholic Story from his alma mater, Xavier University. See the full testimonial to John by clicking here.
Marjorie Gabriel-Burrow has provided leadership and direction to the superb Detroit Gospel Choir for 40 years. See the full testimonial to Marjorie by clicking here.
Marjorie, Karla, John
Master of Ceremonies John Thorne
Mr. Hugh Buchanan, Chairperson, HVM Finance Advisory Committee
Our Lady of Victory – Presentation Parish, 50 Up Club
Dorothy and Dr. Paul Sullivan, Christ the King Parish
Knights of Columbus, Blessed Sacrament Parish
Dr. Okulski and guests, faithful patron HVM mission
Kaitlyn Clark, grand daughter of Thelma Wilson
Entertaining dance presentation:
Fr. Ron DeHondt
Samuel I Onyene, Knights of Columbus
Sr. Chioma, HVM
Sr. Mary Frances, HVM
Linda Franklin delivering testimonials to honorees
Thelma Wilson, Sr. Elizabeth HVM, Marjorie Gabriel-Burrow
Sr. Rosemarie and fundraising committee honoring Beatrice Cochran, long-time chairperson
Waving good bye! Sr. Laura Marie, HVM, Martha Lum, HVM Associate, & special guest
Our first award recipient, Mrs. Karla Cole Green, is one who is held in high esteem by many throughout and beyond Metro Detroit. Karla is a native of Detroit and the younger of two daughters of the late Mr. James H. Cole, Jr. and of Mrs. Jeanette Cole.
After graduating in 1975 from Benedictine Catholic High School, Karla attended Marygrove College and Wayne State University. In 1979, she graduated from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science and became a licensed mortician.
In 1981, Karla and the late Arthur A. Green, III, were married. They became the proud parents of Antonio and Brice, the loving grandparents of Jayden, Lacie and Nolan and the affectionate carers of the family dogs Ainu and Gizzmo, an abandoned dog that was found near the funeral home’s Boulevard location nine years ago.
Following in her grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, Karla ushered in a third generation of Coles to continue the excellent quality of service of the family’s funeral home after the passing of her father in 1991.
Karla’s sons, Antonio and Brice have both graduated from schools of mortuary science and have ushered in a fourth generation to build upon the rich legacy of the James H. Cole Homes for Funeral.
Karla is a lifetime member of the NAACP; a ,member of the Booker T. Washington Business Association, the Sacred Heart Parish’s St. Anne’s Court # 71 of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of St. Peter Claver, Incorporated and sits on the Board of Visitors of the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at Wayne State University.
Among her honors are: The Keep the Dream Alive Award, the Outstanding Community Involvement Award, the 100 Black Women in Funeral Service President Award and the 2012 Michigan Chronicle Women of Excellence Award. Under her directorship, the funeral home has received countless awards, which include the Detroit Spirit of Appreciation Award and the Business of the Year Award.
With Karla at its helm the James H. Cole Home for Funerals is the oldest African American owned funeral home in Metropolitan Detroit, celebrating over 96 years of professional, compassionate, dignified and committed service to families throughout the city. It is the only African American Home for Funerals in our city that is owned and operated by a Catholic family. The high caliber of service provided by the funeral home is a reflection of the character of its leader, Karla Cole Green.
When asked to what she attributes the prestigious longevity of the funeral home, Karla stated: “Being good to people; being kind to people. If you are kind and fair with everyone you will be successful.”
Look at almost any city parish’s Sunday bulletin, and you will see the support of Karla Cole Green to our city parishes. Additionally, Karla has underwritten the Josephite African American History and Heritage Calendar, which is freely distributed to city parishes -bringing Black religious art into many homes and religious education classes.
While we are grateful to Karla for many reasons, we are especially grateful for her compassionate service to those who feel and receive Christ-like mercy from her during their most challenging and delicate time of need. We pray that Karla and her family feel that same Christ-like mercy from us as we continue to lift them up in prayer.
Ladies and gentleman, I am most elated to present to you as a recipient of the SISTERS’ OUTSTANDING SERVICE TO COMMUNITY AWARD, the President of the James H. Cole Home for Funerals, MRS. KARLA COLE GREEN.
Our second honoree, Mr. John Fleming, is a gentleman of grand stature whose life witnesses to his commitment to give to God and His people.
Mr. Fleming has known the Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary for 66 years. He vividly recalls working with the Sisters’ foundress, Sister Mary Schutz, and all of the sisters as they went two by two, door to door evangelizing African American families in Detroit. He made home visits with the sisters. He volunteered for the Home Visitors of Mary Catholic Information Center for 10 years and at the St. Catherine House for Women where Sister LeFerla was a board member. With the Home Visitors, Mr. Fleming has served in vacation Bible schools and as a religious education teacher in various city parishes in the Archdiocese, since 1956.
Mr. Fleming is a native of Rayville, Louisiana.
Mr. Fleming graduated 1947 from Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education; Wayne State University with a Master of Education in Elementary Education and Eastern Michigan University, with an Education Specialist Degree. He has engaged in post graduate academia at Wayne State University and the University of Detroit and has been awarded many certificates in various areas of study.
Mr. Fleming was a public school educator for thirty-eight years.
Before and after retiring as an educator, Mr. Fleming pursued an active life as a volunteer.
He has been a Karmanos Cancer Institute volunteer for over 25 years. A statement in the Winter 2013 issue of VOLUNTEERS AT KARMANOS reads, and I quote: “His ability to put people at ease, making them comfortable and brightening their day is what makes him such a shining example of true volunteerism.”
For over 25 years, he has volunteered at the Northville Psychiatric Hospital and for over 20 years at the former St. Frances Home for Boys as a mentor.
Mr. Fleming has been an opera devotee since the age of nine; his favorite opera is Verdi’s La Traviata. With that said, I share that Mr. Fleming has been a volunteer for the Michigan Opera House for over 29 years. In the Fall 2014 issue of its BRAVO Newsletter, the Michigan Opera Company saluted Mr. Fleming with the following words: “Every Thursday, John Fleming puts on a pristine suit and tie and walks from his apartment to the Detroit Opera House, where he spends the morning organizing files and making calls for the Patron Services Department.”
Mr. Fleming has also been highlighted by:
The Sisters of Mercy in a production on “Laymen in the Church Today”; Channel 4 in their Time to Care Series and for fundraising efforts for the Michigan Opera House; Radio Station WDJR on the topic of Successful Aging; and The Michigan Catholic in 2010 for his work related to the literacy program at St. Aloysuis Parish.
Among his numerous awards are those received while serving in the United States Army; Outstanding Teacher in America awards; The Spirit of Detroit Award (received twice); The Governor’s Volunteer Honor Roll Award; the Urban Parish Spirit Award (2010); and Recognition for Outstanding Service Awards.
Mr. Fleming has created 11 exhibits that have been displayed at the former Precious Blood Parish. Blessed Sacrament Cathedral and St. Aloysuis Parish where he is active in lay ministry. His 11 exhibits promote a deeper knowledge and appreciation for Black History and those affiliated with Black History. He is looking forward to completing Exhibit #12 on either Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta or Venerable Solanus Casey, whoever is canonized first.
On July 31st of this year, Mr. Fleming turned 94 years young in Christ. His life continues to be one of service and giving to others.
When asked to what he credits his many years of vibrant and extensive service, Mr. Fleming quoted the words on the cornerstone of Xavier University, and I quote: “God’s greatest gift on earth is the creation of man. Man’s master art is the leading of man to God.” He also quoted the purpose of the secular order of St. Francis of which he is a member, and I quote: “From Gospel to life; from life to Gospel, meaning that its members put into everyday practice the precepts of Gospel perfection and serve as models of Christian life for the imitation of others.” Additionally, Mr. Fleming shared the profound influence of St. Katharine Drexel, founder of Xavier University, on his life.
We salute Mr. Fleming for a life of self-giving, for always being available, using his feet and the bus to transport himself to places and people in need of his skills, talents and gifts.
Ladies and gentleman, my cup overflows with indescribable joy as I present to you as a recipient of the SISTERS’ OUTSTANDING SERVICE TO COMMUNITY AWARD, MR. JOHN FLEMING.
Our next awardee is an internationally acclaimed virtuoso who is a fifth generation musician in a long line of jazz and church musicians. Mrs. Marjorie Gabriel Burrow is recognized as an anointed instrument of God by those who have experienced her gift.
As a toddler Marjorie’s fascination with the piano often sent her climbing the upright in her home to play its keys. At the age of six, Marjorie started taking private lessons from Ms. Elinor Harvey, a neighborhood piano teacher, and quickly became Ms. Harvey’s prize student. It was Ms. Harvey who encouraged Marjorie to pursue a more advanced study of music.
Marjorie received her K-12 education in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit and is a graduate of the former all girls Immaculata High School. Marjorie is a graduate of Wayne State University and has studied under some of the most gifted and talented musicians ever: Father Clarence Rivers, Walter & Edwin Hawkins, Lucien Deiss, Joe Wise, Avon Gillespie, Reverend Charles Nix and Donald Vails to name a few. In recent years, she has performed and recorded with her mother, Evangelist, Dr. Bessie Watters Gabriel, a gospel recording artist.
While she was in 8th grade, Fr. Charles Moffatt, pastor of St. Benedict de Moor Parish, expressed an interest in Marjorie playing for the Sunday Mass. Marjorie’s father informed her that it was her choice to play at church and not an obligation for her to play at church. Marjorie elected to continue telling her dad, “I am on a mission for God.” Marjorie’s exposure to the Catholic and Baptist churches by both of her grandmothers had a tremendous influence on her becoming a church musician.
It was at St. Benedict de Moor Parish that Marjorie met the Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary. She vividly remembers the Sisters’ presence in the community and the late Sister Mary LaFerla who, along with Sister Fiorentina, encouraged her musical efforts at the parish. After five years of playing for St. Benedict the Moor, the parish decided it was time to pay Marjorie for her services, $50.00 a month. Marjorie recalls that was music itself to her ears.
In 1981 while at St. Cecilia Parish, Marjorie began her 10 year work venture as Assistant Coordinator of the Archdiocese of Detroit Office of Black Catholic Affairs under the leadership of the late Deacon Wyatt L. Jones, Jr. During this time she founded the first diocesan Black Catholic Gospel Choir in the city of Detroit. This choir, the Metro Catholic Gospel Choir, formerly the Archdiocesan Gospel Choir, has participated in celebrations for Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and Bishop Moses B. Anderson. After 32 years, the choir continues to minister through music for various occasions, including fundraisers for homeless shelters, soup kitchens, battered women, orphaned children, aids victims, literacy programs, jail ministry and refugees. The choir has recorded 2 CD’S.
In 1984 under the leadership of Archbishop James P. Lyke, Marjorie’s efforts along with those of two other musical giants–Rawn Harbor and Leon Roberts—produced the first African American Hymnal, LEAD ME, GUIDE ME:THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CATHOLIC HYMNAL, that was published in 1987 by GIA publications. The Preface to the Hymnal contains the following accolade and I quote: “However, a special word of appreciation must be given to Marjorie Gabriel-Burrow (chairperson) and Rawn Harbor and Leon Roberts, who as a Sub-Committee devoted untold hours, including vacation times, and incalculable energies to the study, selections and even composition and arrangement of the hymns. In all this, Mrs. Burrow was a great collaborator and organizer. To state it pointedly, without this gifted and dedicated trio, there would be no African American Catholic Hymnal.”
Since 1992, Marjorie has been the minister of music at St. Augustine-St. Monica Catholic Parish.
For several years, Marjorie and the choir have helped to raise funds for and awareness of the Sisters Nigerian Mission. The Sisters’ home is also home to the Metro Gospel Choir, for it is in the Sisters’ home that the choir prays, plays and practices. Home Visitor Sister Mary Frances Roberts, a dedicated charter member, remains actively involved with the choir.
We recognize Marjorie for her extraordinary ability to spread the Word of God through her inspired gift of music and for the works of service the choir has done under her leadership.
Ladies and gentleman, it is a sheer delight to present to you as a recipient of the SISTERS HOME VISITORS OF MARY OUTSTANDING SERVICE TO COMMUNITY AWARD, MRS. MARJORIE GABRIEL- BURROW.