By Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan
Presidential Proclamation our national holiday, Thanksgiving Day, is set aside to give thanks to the Almighty for blessings received from the providence of God. Blessings such as freedom, family, and the bounty of the harvest are celebrated and recalled annually on the fourth Thursday of November. At the traditional Thanksgiving Day meal do not forget to have someone at your table offer a spoken prayer expressing thanks to God for so many blessings.
I witnessed a living prayer of thanksgiving when I joined the parishioners of Incarnation Parish, Mantua, for the preparation of 60 boxes of food for struggling families. The parish Saint Vincent de Paul Society attends to the details of this labor of love by visiting the recipients, arranging for the filling of the boxes and distributing them. For me and for the parishioners who volunteered at that event, the evening was a faith-filled experience. I am very aware that a similar activity is conducted in many of our parishes, schools and institutions in the diocese for which I say thanks be to God. Our people never say no when they are asked to give. The charity of Christ urges us to reach out in His name to the least among us. Filling boxes for a festive meal is a prayer of thanksgiving to God.
On Monday of Thanksgiving week I saw a similar scene but this time with high school students at Gloucester Catholic. Is there a better lesson for our young to learn than to be concerned in the name of Christ for the needy? I was edified, humbled and proud that our teenage students do the charity of Christ and learn that thanks to God involves reaching out to assist others.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis has designated a Year of Consecrated Life to be observed by the whole Church. It begins on the first Sunday of Advent, November 30th and concludes on February 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated Life. These 16 months will be a time to recognize and appreciate men and women religious and to embrace the future of religious consecration with hope.
Since the early days of our diocese, women and men of various congregations have been a vital force in the formation in faith of the faithful and in service to all people. They have labored tirelessly in parishes, schools, medical facilities and social service agencies. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their prayers, their witness, their commitment, and service.
Our diocese is blessed with the presence of 250 women and 39 men religious who are members of various religious institutes. We acknowledge their presence among us and their gift of religious life. During the Year of Consecrated Life I encourage you to remember and to appreciate these dedicated religious who serve us by living their Baptismal Consecration though public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
A number of events are planned in the diocese for the Year of Consecrated Life. I encourage you to enter into the joy of these events as we hold out before the faithful, especially before our young, the lives and stories of these Consecrated women and men Religious for whom we give God thanks.