In 1998, the murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas, made national headlines as one of the most horrific hate crimes in modern American history. Byrd, an African American man, was dragged to his death after being chained by the ankles to the back of a pickup truck by three white men. Fr. Ron Foshage, who had been a pastor, prison and hospital chaplain, and community and spiritual leader in the Diocese of Beaumont since 1985, was now on the front lines of a community in crisis.
He would remind his parishioners:
We are a community that is hurting, not hating.”
He spent years repairing race relations, confronting racism and prejudice, and healing divisions with Christ at his side. He has become a champion for overcoming hate across the world, speaking to communities about race relations and, through his pastoral guidance, assisting leaders as they attempt to unify and heal their communities after experiencing hate crimes.
In 1999, the U.S. Justice Department officially recognized Fr. Ron’s work. He was called to testify before local legislators who passed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Law, which became federal law in 2009 as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
THE JASPER PRIEST
Back in his own diocese, he is also known for his hands-on ministry that earned him the title “The Jasper Priest.” He makes weekly 900-mile sojourns to celebrate six masses on Sunday and tends to one hospital and two prison ministries throughout the week. When not in his car, Fr. Ron can be found mowing the lawn of elderly parishioners, delivering groceries, attending a community function or administering to the sick.
His imprint on the community is endless—from his work desegregating cemeteries, to building homes for homeless veterans, to his pastoral care of the growing poor Hispanic families in his community.
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