THIBODAUX, La. — A Louisiana bishop celebrated a memorial Mass for victims of a massacre of African-American Louisiana residents 130 years ago.

The Most Rev. Shelton Fabre, bishop of the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese , decided to celebrate a special memorial Mass in Thibodaux on Thursday after learning that the city had declared the day “1887 Memorial Day,” honoring 30 to 60 people killed Nov. 23, 1887 to end a strike by sugar plantation workers.

Fabre walked into the church wearing a bishop’s miter. He was followed by descendants of victims who wore gold and black sashes. Family members also wore red T-shirts with black lettering on the front with the words “Thibodaux Massacre 1887.”

The service opened with a minute of silence that was called for the Thibodaux city and the Lafourche Parish proclamation, which was issued last week. Reading from the Mass included lamentations — which are typically read at funerals.

The Mass focused on the victims’ sacrifice and their journey to Jesus.

“We remember (the victims). We honor them. And we lift them again to the love of almighty God with the celebration of this Mass,” Bishop Fabre told the congregation during his homily. “In this way you, their descendants, as well as the larger community, solemnly declare that they are not forgotten as a footnote to a terrible tragedy in history.”

Lafourche Parish, like its parish seat, declared Thursday a day of remembrance and asked for a moment of silence at noon to honor the victims.

Thursday was the first official commemoration of the killings.

Wiletta Ferdinand of New Orleans, a retired educator and great-great-granddaughter of Jack Conrad — a man who was wounded and whose son was killed — helped organize the family commemoration.

“It is very important to us that the Catholic church is recognizing the Thibodaux Massacre, St. Luke’s has always been a family parish,” she said.

She said she was looking forward to meeting the bishop.

“He is our newest advocate,” she said. “He is our angel. When I learned this I was elated that a real live Bishop would think enough of our ancestors to acknowledge this tragedy. Then I thought how proud my grandmother would be. She was also a devout Catholic.”

John DeSantis, who created the memorial committee after publication in 2016 of his book about the strike and killings, said, “For the spiritual shepherd of this area’s Catholics to perform this memorial mass is a blessing for both the living and the dead.”

The 1887 Memorial Committee is trying to raise $24,000 for an archaeological survey to learn whether many of the victims were buried in a mass grave on the grounds of what’s now a black American Legion chapter , as local tradition holds. If there’s a grave, the group wants to have the bones exhumed, studied, and buried in consecrated ground.

“As we remember and honor them, may we also remember that violence is never an answer to any of the challenges that we face as we continue to strive to achieve greater racial harmony and peace,” Fabre said.