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Lexington priest works to unify community

Father Norman Fischer
Posted at 8:18 PM, Jun 09, 2023

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Spend a few minutes with Father Norman Fischer and it’s clear he’s a Lexington rock star. He naturally blushes at the thought.

“If we can give a smile, if we can give attention. Most anyone just would like to be seen and heard and recognized,” Fischer demures. “If I can use whatever rockstar glow or whatever that is, I think it’s God’s love and Holy Spirit just…whatever I have, I gotta share it ‘cause we only have today.”

For nearly two decades, this Boyle County native by way of Centre College has been a pillar in the community, bridging Lexington’s racial gap to be a source of comfort to thousands at Lexington Catholic High School and St. Peter Claver Church.

”I sort of grew up knowing the reality of segregation where people lived, but at the schools, everybody sort of got along. I didn’t even see a Black Catholic priest until like, I was in high school.

“I cried. I didn’t think they existed.”

Father Norma is especially proud of the church’s brand new $3.5 million sanctuary, a new era for a house of worship that dates back to the 1880s, when the original building was erected as a school for Black Catholic children. Today, it serves a much more diverse audience.

“Dr. King says Sunday is the most segregated, divided day in our country. That’s not our case, which is awesome. We try to work against that reality of the past”, says Fischer. “Our community has Filipinos, Africans, African-Americans, Anglo, Germans, all kinds of unique cultural backgrounds.”

And what does Father Norman see as his role in this, while serving the Catholic community as well as Lexington and the area at large?

“I try to recognize myself as one who tries to lighten the load of others and lighten the burdens of all people that God puts in my path.”

And a special piece in all of this is the baptismal pool at St. Peter Claver, highlighted by a unique dish that was a gift from the family of his mentor and close friend at Centre College, renowned art instructor Steve Powell.

“One of (his widow’s) sons brings over this bowl and there it is. This incredible, brilliant blue and orange and all kinds of love and it’s ginormous! I said, ‘Shelly, are you serious? This is incredible, you know, what can we do ‘cause I’m gonna have to do some payment plans here!’ And she says, ‘No, I’m donating it.'"

Fischer sighs and looks around the interior of this impressive structure, which took seven years to complete, and thinks of the lives that will be touched and impacted in this space for generations to come.

“There’s so many ways that I want this to be for everyone. I think it should be a lighthouse for the community.”