By Bishop Gerald Barnes
We are in the month of Thanksgiving, a holiday that calls us to pause and reflect on all that God has given us, to share in a meal that symbolizes His bounty. We know that this observance is traced back to the time of the pilgrims and the Native people who together inhabited what would become the United States of America.
We are told that the First Thanksgiving took place during a time of hardship. The people who came together to share this meal were struggling to survive, they were dealing with the uncertainty of frontier life. You could argue that Thanksgiving was a kind of morale booster. It took the collective efforts of all the inhabitants of the land to pull it off. What they shared was a gratitude to their Creator for what they did have. It was a time to focus on that, rather than what was not going right.
Centuries later, this is still the model for us. We do not face the same struggles of the pilgrims and the Native people, but we surely have our own stresses and challenges that demand our time and attention. For some, it is more difficult to get to the mindset of thankfulness, of counting the many ways God blesses our lives. Thanksgiving provides us with an occasion, an excuse to express our gratitude to God.
As I journey through the last months of my time as your Bishop, I am reflecting even more on the many things for which I have been and continue to be thankful. Here’s a sample from my gratitude list:
I’m thankful for,
- The faithful people of our Diocese, who live and share the Gospel everyday
- The clergy and religious of our Diocese
- The lay ministers of our Diocese
- The great cultural diversity that blesses our Diocese
- The engagement and passion of our youth and young adults
- The quality of education and formation that takes place in our Catholic schools
- The innovative spirit of our Catechetical and Adult Formation and Education programs
- The energy, generosity and commitment of our faith communities to build new churches
- Those who are working to promote vocations in our Diocese
- The learnings and responses to the V Encuentro process
- Our diocesan and parish ministries to our most vulnerable brothers and sisters – the homeless, the immigrant, the incarcerated, the elderly, the sick and dying, and the unborn
- All those who have prayed for and supported me during my years as Bishop. I have surely needed it and been fortified by it.
I invite you to make your own gratitude list this month in the spirit of Thanksgiving. I also offer my blessings and prayers for a joyous and restful holiday.