In this month of November in which we make a point of counting our blessings, I hope each of us also will think about those who provide those blessings, from our good and gracious God to our loved ones and friends, coworkers, all of those to whom we owe hearty and generous thanks.
Gratitude, of course, is not just for Thanksgiving time, yet this wonderful holiday does help us focus on what is good and important in our too-busy lives and perhaps even gives us a chance at a new beginning in what ought to be a daily practice.
If we do stop and think about it, our daily lives are filled with the wonder of both heaven-sent and human kindness, are they not? How wonderful we feel when we do make that mental list of people to be grateful for! Indeed, the famous English writer and philosopher G.K. Chesterton once wrote that "thanks are the highest form of thought; gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
And so, in that spirit of happiness and wonder, I have made a list here, in no particular order, of those to and for whom I am particularly thankful as Bishop of Rochester. I extend my wishes for a happy Thanksgiving and, more, I offer a heartfelt thank you to:
- The many thousands of you who give of your time, talent and treasure to support our parishes and diocesan projects, such as through the weekly collections, special collections and diocesanwide efforts, including our very successful Partners in Faith campaign. I marvel at and praise God for your generosity, which is abundant even in the worst of economic times.
- The priests of our diocese. They work tirelessly and with passion and energy abounding to enrich all of our lives with their ministry. They are there in the sunshine and in the darkest storms of people’s lives, beacons of hope, helping people navigate the sometimes difficult path that leads to God. They are a constant source of help and inspiration to me.
- Our permanent deacons, and their supportive spouses and families. These men provide a wonderfully rich ministry in more ways and places than I can list here, not only in our parishes but especially to the disenfranchised and for all those to whom their indomitable spirit of service calls them.
- Our lay ecclesial ministers in both pastoral leadership and in many other parish-based and diocesan ministries. They have answered the call to serve heralded by the Second Vatican Council, and are making an enormous difference in our diocese in this still relatively new role in recent church history. It would be difficult to imagine how we would carry out our mission without their talents.
- Our women religious, whose sacrifice, prayer and hands-on toil built up and nurtured this diocese, and whose presence shines today in nearly every aspect of Catholic life in our diocese.
- The employees of the Pastoral Center who, fewer in number than in years past, resourcefully work to support the ongoing mission of our diocese, our parishes and many other ministries. They strive successfully to close the distance in a diocese that covers 12 counties, serving to centralize services and resources and bringing a commonality of mission and cohesiveness.
- Our seminarians and Becket Hall discerners who are studying hard to serve the church in ordained ministry in years to come and who provide us with inspiration and hope for the future. Their energy and enthusiasm is contagious!
- Women and men who teach and inspire our young people on college and university campuses, in parish-based faith-formation programs, and in our Catholic schools. They all minister with vision, courage, good humor and remarkable flexibility.
- The caring and compassionate people who ensure that the poor and all those in need are never forgotten through the work of diocesan Catholic Charities. And happy 100th anniversary!
I could go on and on as my mind fills with the people who, in ways large and small, have made my 31 years as bishop such a joy. Words do not seem sufficient to offer proper thanks!
I wonder if you might not sit down and make such a list for yourself of all the ways that God has blessed you, and all the people whom you count as blessings? I pray it will be a long list, and I pray that each of those people have an equally long list.
Above all, enjoy this wonderful time of Thanksgiving. Let us each strive to live the spirit it brings, and to give thanks every day to God and to those who, like a cornucopia, fill our lives and keep our spirit alive.
Peace to all.