Happy Thanksgiving!

A Thanksgiving Day message from Father Shelton:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Happy Thanksgiving! We all have many reasons to be thankful today. God gives us the gift of life, and he surrounds us with the lives of others who care for us as family, friends and neighbors. I’m especially grateful for the members of Saint Mary Parish, and for all the great neighbors who call Oak Ridge their home. God is very generous to us!

I’m thankful for Father Pontian, whose eagerness to serve Our Lord, and joyfulness in ministering to the parishioners of Saint Mary’s, has quickly made him a cherished part of our parish life.

I’m thankful for Deacon Gary, who faithfully drives to the church every single morning, seven days a week, to fulfill the ministry of deacon during the 8 am Mass. Deacon Gary is a man of great pastoral initiative, bringing the fullness of the Faith to parishioners through special educational series, bringing the Gospel to the searching souls of Oak Ridge through street evangelization, and fulfilling a goal of the Second Vatican Council by leading parishioners in the Liturgy of the Hours.

I’m thankful for Deacon John, who has become an essential part of the pastoral ministry at Saint Mary’s, especially through his work with our Hispanic community, and through his and Vilma’s work with our married couples going through difficult times, and with our young couples preparing for marriage. Deacon John also ministers daily at the 6:30 am Mass, at the evening Masses on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and on Sundays.

I’m thankful for our Lay Pastoral Associate, Karen, who serves the parish in so many ways, such as the months of preparation that go into the annual Bishop’s Appeal, and also as a confidential resource assisting me in addressing the more difficult situations than arise in parish life. Her wisdom and joy are both much appreciated.

I’m thankful for our Director of Liturgical Music, Kathy, who coordinates the large number of generous choristers, cantors, instrumentalists and technicians for our 20 weekly Masses, in addition to ritual Masses for weddings and funerals. If we truly understood what it takes for us to have a consistently high quality of music at every Mass, week after week, we’d all be closer to showing Kathy the gratitude she deserves.

I’m grateful for our bookkeeper John, who, along with such great assistants as Sara and Melinda, not only process our donations, keep our dozens of employees and our hundreds of bills paid on time, but also tediously scan every bill to search for ways to save us money.

I’m grateful for our Director of Volunteers, Cyndi, who has the very demanding task of recruiting, training and coordinating the many volunteers who keep our parish functioning. Cyndi’s responsibilities begin with providing a religious education program for our children who are not yet enrolled in our parish school, and these responsibilities continue with all the preparatory work that goes into the initiation sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. Cyndi also takes care of many other needs in the parish that are not covered by other members of the parish staff.

I’m grateful for our secretarial staff, Monse and Diane, who each basically do the work of full-time employees while working here only part-time. That’s impressive!

I’m grateful for our Safe Environment Coordinator, Denise, who ensures that all new employees have first met the diocesan Safe Environment requirements, and who also ensures that all of the many volunteers at Saint Mary’s are compliant with these requirements. Denise is also a spectacular leader in other areas of parish life, as we saw most recently in our modified and highly creative Fall Festival.

I’m grateful for our Director of Youth Ministry, Omar, and for many reasons. Omar is very dedicated to the youth of our parish, both those in middle school and those in high school. Omar is also a well-read Catholic and a deeply spiritual man, who truly is a great treasure of the parish because he is such a generous spiritual resource. If you could just spend an hour with him, you’d come away a more faithful Catholic and a better human being. He also plays the piano!

I’m grateful for our Facilities Supervisor, George, who must maintain our nine buildings, keep us in compliance with health and safety requirements, oversee our computer network and the computers themselves, and contend with the dozens of daily requests from the staff to “move this shelf”, “place this desk in storage”, “fix this projector”, etc. George got his engineering degree from the University of Portland (a Congregation of the Holy Cross school), worked in nuclear facilities and aluminum plants, retired, and then came to serve God by working for us. Thank you, George!

I’m grateful for our Director of Hispanic Ministry, Pedro, who has done so much to help build our parish Spanish-speaking parishioners into a genuine community of friends, while networking our families and enhancing the leadership skills of our many Hispanic ministry volunteers. The eagerness with which our Hispanic families gather together and cooperate with each other to provide frequent all-night retreats, days of recollection, spiritual talks with invited speakers, music festivals, communal meals at stations around Oak Ridge, and fervent promotion of our parish school, deserves the kind of leadership that Pedro provides. Thank you, Pedro!

I’m grateful for Sr. Marie Blanchette and all the Dominican sisters, lay teachers and support staff who work so well with our parents and children to keep our school the rich learning environment it has been since 1950. I encourage everyone to take a walking trip to the Saint Cecilia Memorial Bridge on our walking trail today, to spend a moment in grateful prayer for all the sisters and teachers who’ve served your children at our school over the years.

I’m grateful for the members of our two parish councils who provide timely advice on many areas of parish life as we move from our past into our future as a parish community. Valentino, who leads our parochial pastoral council, and Mike, who leads our parochial finance council, are both serving our parish at a pivotal time in its history, as we “read the signs of the times” and make good, long-term decisions that will keep our parish oriented towards growth and vibrancy.

I’m grateful for our many liturgical, social and administrative volunteers and their coordinators, including everyone from Gene and the lectors to Lawrence and the groundskeepers. There’s a lot of work that needs to go on every week to keep our parish active, and much of that work gets completed thanks to these volunteers and their volunteer leaders.

Finally, I’m grateful for our parish associations of the lay faithful, traditionally called “sodalities”. The Knights of Columbus, the Council of Catholic Women (and its guilds), the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, the Divine Mercy Prison Ministry, Saint Paul Street Evangelization, as well as those civic Oak Ridge organizations to which our parish belongs, all provide opportunities for parishioners to answer God’s call to serve others. I’m very grateful for all of you who do so.

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

In Christ,
Father Shelton

President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
New York, 3 October 1789

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.