Thanksgiving, a Time for Joyful Celebration

HNP Communications Around the Province

With Thanksgiving being so close to the first Sunday of Advent this year, Franciscans around the Province have had much for which to be both grateful and hopeful.

An informal survey of ministries in areas served by the Province found that Franciscans were celebrating all they have been given by both thanking God and sharing with others. Several parishes held traditional and multicultural Masses, while others served dinner to parishioners and guests or collected food for those in need.

Masses Celebrated
Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, N.C., celebrated a bilingual Mass on Thanksgiving morning, attended by approximately 500 people, 70 percent of whom were Latino, according to pastor Lawrence Hayes, OFM.

“This is particularly moving,” he said, “when you remember that Thanksgiving is not celebrated back home in their native countries.”

William McIntyre, OFM, was the principal celebrant, Charles Miller, OFM, preached in English and Lawrence preached in Spanish. Songs and prayers were offered in both languages.

Parishioners brought bread to be blessed that they would later share at their Thanksgiving meals. “There was a strong sense of joyful gratitude and unity in the Lord as the faithful from many countries, together with the friar team, prayed as one body and took time to thank God together for the many gifts that God sends our way each and every day,” said Larry.

On the day after Thanksgiving, the parish welcomed torch runners from the 11th Annual Antorcha Guadalupana International Run, which arrived from Greensboro, N.C. The annual antorcha relay, which means “torch,” celebrates devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and urges immigration reform. The relay stopped at Immaculate Conception enroute from Tepeyac, Mexico, to St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

One of the Province’s other large parishes, St. Camillus in Silver Spring, Md., where Michael Johnson, OFM, is pastor, also held a multicultural Mass on Thanksgiving morning. Participants were invited to bring the bread they would eat at their Thanksgiving meal to be blessed. Money collected from the Mass was given to the parish’s St. Francis Assistance ministry to help needy families.

St. Andrew Parish in Clemson, S.C., which serves Clemson University, participated in an ecumenical service on Nov. 26 at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Daniel McLellan, OFM, pastor of St. Andrew, gave the homily, as other clergy, choirs, and members of several area churches participated in this ecumenical service of song, prayer and scripture.

St. Anthony Church in Butler, N.J., where Robert Norton, OFM, is the administrator, was the location of an ecumenical Thanksgiving service on Nov. 27. The United Methodist churches of Butler and Bloomingdale, and the Butler Church of the Nazarene joined St. Anthony’s worship. Donations were given to the St. Anthony Food Pantry.

Food Programs Lift Spirits
In addition to collecting money for food programs, parishes collected food for the needy.  Among them was St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Hartford, Conn., which gathered green beans, mushroom soup, rolls, and pumpkin pie for a Thanksgiving meal at Catherine’s Place, a partnership of the Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry and the Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp.

In Boston, the extensive efforts of St. Anthony Shrine to feed the needy were lauded by Mayor-elect Marty Walsh. He stopped by the ministry center’s food distribution program on Nov. 25 to thank the friars and volunteers. “St. Anthony Shrine holds a special place in my heart. I came here often as a child to Mass and to light candles. The friars do great work for the people of Boston,” said Walsh.

The shrine’s Franciscan Food Center supplies groceries to 400 to 450 families and individuals each week. “We have seen an increase in need in our food center and our other ministries as well,” said executive director Thomas Conway, OFM. “The increased need is being driven, in part, by the growing number of people falling below the poverty line, as they struggle to keep up with the rising cost of living, from food to utilities. Many are not able to afford the tradition of a Thanksgiving meal this year.”

Thanksgiving Dinner Served
Several parishes served Thanksgiving meals. In New Jersey, St. Bonaventure Parish in Paterson, where Christopher VanHaight, OFM, is pastor, held a holiday potluck, with food provided by parishioners. A similar holiday meal will also be served on Christmas Day. Both celebrations were billed in the Sunday bulletin as great ways “to share fellowship and good food.”

In South Carolina, St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Greenville, where Patrick Tuttle, OFM, is the pastor, also hosted its 4th annual Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 26, a shared event with volunteers from the Regular Individuals Sharing Kindness program. The dinner was open to all in need of food and fellowship in community.

St. Stephen of Hungary Parish in New York City hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and collected food for the community. The parish bulletin invited people to the dinner with this message: “Life in the city being what it is, we realize that some of us may not be able to join our families for the holiday for one reason or another. Why not consider joining your neighbors for a special holiday dinner on Thanksgiving Day?”

— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today. Maria Hayes provided research for this story.