A Time to Give Thanks
By Sister Carolyn Mary
Thanksgiving has always been a time to gather with friends and family and to enjoy what has always been my favorite meal. This was followed… by a nap, playing a board game or watching football. Even in the convent the tradition continued with two exceptions. We always began our day with prayer and liturgy to give thanks to the giver of the gifts.In recent years however I have experienced a new way to celebrate the day. One that I believe is more in keeping with our mission of Mercy. While my role has been minimal I have watched and worked with Carolyn Bergman a mercy associate in the south central region who serves as community outreach coordinator in a parish in North Carolina with a 10% -/+ unemployment rate. The parish while middle class is surrounded by poverty and closed textile plants and few opportunities for the workers.
Over the years Carolyn and a team of volunteers have expanded what has been a tradition in the parish to celebrate Thanksgiving with anyone who came. This year over 1200 meals +/- were served. Meals were taken to those who could not come, to city and police workers, the jail, and finally police officers took meals to the homeless living on the streets and under the bridges. Others waited outside the doors to enter and enjoy a warm meal.
Finally the doors opened and the school gym that was transformed by the school children and others into a festive environment was opened. Volunteers stood at the ready to serve our guests after prayers of thanks were shared. The feast began and the room was filled with smiles, conversation and a feeling their were no strangers here only friends. Parishioners mixed with the homeless and senior citizens. Children laughed, toothless men smiled the music played and all who worked the day gave thanks the food had been enough.
All were tired when the last task of the day was done. Another year had come and gone. As I left that day, I could not help but feel we had been given much more this Thanksgiving then we could ever imagine. While we were their to give to them, their smiles, tears, thank you’s and graciousness to one another was a far greater gift .
Yes, for me it was a different Thanksgiving. Instead of being stuffed with turkey and all its trimmings, I felt full with God’s love as I witnessed it in all who came to eat that day and the more than 65 volunteers from both the parish and the local community.
” The community of belivers was of one heart and mind…”.