By Jeff Miller
Special to The Texas Catholic
Inclusivity has long been a mission, a calling, for Melba Addison, Grambling State class of 1968 and a parishioner at St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Oak Cliff since 1984. Inclusivity in all aspects of her life — and that includes her faith.
“As long as we are followers of Christ, we should come together as brothers and sisters as one in the Lord,” Addison said. “That’s the way I’d love to see the world.”
Addison grew up Protestant — Baptist, specifically — in northern Louisiana. She first attended a Catholic Mass while at Grambling at the invitation of her roommate, who advised her to “just sit there.”
Addison came through RCIA at St. Elizabeth and is far from just sitting there these days. She began attending the parish’s weekly Bible study in 2002 and became the facilitator when asked.
“Lord, you know I don’t want to do this,” she recalled thinking, “but it was for me to do.”
Father Russ Mower, St. Elizabeth of Hungary’s pastor since 2016, lauded the classes.
“They go verse by verse and analyze each of them and see how everything ties together,” Father Mower said. “People really enjoy that. They study their books (of the Bible) in more detail than we did in seminary on some of them.”
Addison likewise became interested in St. Elizabeth of Hungary’s youth ministry sessions on Wednesday nights and was asked to take over about four years ago. She works alongside fellow parishioners Julie Luke and Natalie Davis.
“There’s a peace that comes with Melba,” said Luke, a former social studies teacher at St. Elizabeth’s elementary school. “Her greatest strength is her scripture knowledge. It’s phenomenal. She knows passages from the top of her head. She just looks at the kids and tells them a scripture passage, and it’s what they need to hear when they need to hear it.
“The youth are always so glad to see her. Prior to COVID, if you needed a Melba hug, you got a Melba hug. And there’s just nothing like ‘em.”
After serving as a chaperone to the annual Dallas Catholic Youth Conference, Addison told Father Mower that African-Americans were underrepresented in the planning stages; she’s now part of the committee that puts together the conferences.
Addison enjoys the diversity of St. Elizabeth of Hungary’s faith community. The approximately 1,600 families break down to roughly 50 percent Hispanic and 25 percent each African-American and Anglo.
She attends 8 a.m. Mass each Sunday but not simply to have the rest of her day free.
“I’ve never put any food in my body until I go to Mass,” Addison said. “I want the body of Christ to be the first thing in my body that day.”
Whenever Addison is asked how she’s doing, she replies, “I’m blessed and highly favored.”
Said Elizabeth Seidemann, the Oak Cliff parish’s catechetical leader: “That just portrays her outlook on life. No matter what’s going on in her life, she’s a very positive person and sees those blessings that are given and able to pass those on.”