By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 28, 2019
ATLANTA—President Abraham Lincoln set the national holiday of Thanksgiving on our civic calendar. He wrote how it was “fit and proper” the gifts of God “should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”
For us Catholics, giving thanks occurs every time we participate in the celebration of the Mass. After all, the term Eucharist in Greek means just that, thanksgiving.
A new priest. Our spiritual leaders. A Catholic newly entered into the faith. The Georgia Bulletin asked a few people to share their Thanksgiving thoughts and gratitude, following the charge of the president, 156 years later.
“A great benefit of the Thanksgiving holiday is that it urges us to stop long enough to count the blessings that have come our way. I have more than I can enumerate here.
“I remain grateful, the older I get, for the way that my parents formed me in the faith of the Catholic Church. It is a daily source of strength and joy. And I am ever more grateful for the vocation to the priesthood and the call to join the Marists. I give thanks for my fellow Marists and fellow priests. I give thanks for Bishop Ned Shlesinger, with whom I work closely in church leadership. I’m very grateful for those who assist me daily at the Chancery and for the generosity and support of the people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
“I am especially thankful this year for the example of Archbishop Gregory, who said ‘yes’ to the call to be Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and for his guidance.
“Finally, I try to make sure that, at whatever table I find myself on Thanksgiving Day, we take time to offer a prayer of genuine thanksgiving. May it be an occasion for all to express gratitude to God.”
-Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, diocesan administrator
“I am grateful and encouraged by the faithful witness of the people of God. I have seen Christ in those in prison, those who are sick with terminal illnesses and the many staff and volunteers who are missionary disciples. All have helped me look beyond my own limitations and encouraged me to focus on Jesus rather than on the daily problems facing a bishop today. I am blessed to personally know so many of our priests and deacons and to have had Archbishop Gregory and Bishop Konzen as mentors. Finally, I am appreciative of my staff who work tirelessly to serve in the Office of Priest Personnel and all of the Chancery staff who are forming me in my episcopal ministry.”
-Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III, auxiliary bishop
“Looking back on 2019, my heart swells with gratitude, and it seems that I have been given new life in Christ. It is a privilege to go to Mass, and to be able to receive the word of God and Holy Communion. Appreciating the Scriptures and the homily helps my understanding as days go by. As our parishioners put together baskets for families filled with food to share, love is very present at this time of year. Sharing the blessings we enjoy is something I have always wanted to do with my family. The Catholic Church gives us so much that there are many ways we can give back and radiate the light of Christ. At this time of year, thinking of being well fed comes to mind. As it gets cold, a warm meal seems fitting, but also feeding our spirit and working with others for the glory of God reminds us of Matthew 25:40, ‘the King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“The people and pastor of St. Michael the Archangel have been so very generous with their time, knowledge and friendship and have shown love for God and neighbor. My family and the support they have given, is also God working through them in my life, and I am forever grateful. This reminds me every day to reflect the love and grace that has been given to me, to others in all I do. The joy and peace in my life today is something I am ever thankful for. In 2019, I am most thankful for the love of Jesus Christ that unites people of goodwill across the world.”
-Holly Lewis, a new Catholic
“Obviously when I consider what I have to be thankful for this year the list should start with being ordained a priest of the Lord Jesus Christ on June 1 at the cathedral. I remember speaking to my spiritual director about how words can’t really describe how I feel about this unique privilege. And I think it is often the case that a feeling of unworthiness can accompany the receiving of great gifts in this life, as these moments can inspire us to call to mind the realization that all life, reality and existence is an undeserved gift from God.
“Thus, I think the key for me has been and continues to be to live as a response to this gift. And in doing this I am striving to echo the effects of the gift itself, which in essence is the gift of being permitted to in a unique and distinct way participate in, articulate and even make present the eucharistic sacrifice. And this is essentially God’s gift of redemption to the entire world, which ultimately allows for the salvation of all mankind and the renewal of the entire cosmos.
“How can anyone earn such a great and awesome gift? The only thing I can do is attempt each day to allow the gift to come to inform and guide every aspect of my life.”
-Father Mark White, ordained to the priesthood in 2019