My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
The season of autumn was officially declared on September 23. I personally am incredulous at how quickly the year seems to be moving. Autumn sparks in us a season of gratitude. This is naturally earthen-bound as the season of autumn is associated with harvesting of crops which symbolize the bounty of God’s feast upon the earth. It culminates with the celebration of Thanksgiving. The Scriptures often speak of a theme of thanksgiving. This thanksgiving stems from a love of God and for His goodness bestowed upon us. On the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Naaman thanks God for His cleanliness after he had been afflicted with leprosy. In Luke’s Gospel, a Samaritan, one of ten cured, also returns to thank Jesus for God’s goodness.
How do we praise God for His goodness? How do we show our gratitude? The most profound opportunity is participating in the celebration of Mass. On September 27, we did just that as we prayed in thanksgiving for our first responders at the annual Blue Mass. Approximately 800 first responders, parishioners and students from the nine counties of the Diocese of Orlando gathered together in this celebration to honor and pray with gratitude for those who serve with integrity and justice for each one of us. We prayed for Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Tracy Vickers who died that morning.
Just last week on October 4, we remembered St. Francis of Assisi on October 4, a saint who taught us that nature is an image of God and whose living proclaimed the sanctity of life. St. Francis praised God and imitated Christ to the fullest extent.
During the Sisters’ Jubilee celebration on October 26, we will pray joyfully during the celebration of Mass for all the religious sisters who have served in the Diocese of Orlando. We particularly honor Sister Catherine Noecker, OSF who is celebrating her 60th anniversary of consecrated life. Sister Catherine served as a teacher and principal, but her work extended beyond the classroom. She said her ministry was to spread the Kingdom of God. Today Sister Catherine is enjoying her “second career” at St. Paul’s Parish in Leesburg where she has served since 2015. Her days are filled doing volunteer work, serving on congregational committees, assisting her 92-year-old sister who lives in The Villages, serving as the moderator for the Sisters of the Diocese or Orlando and being the “chief cook and bottle washer” for Sister Mary Schifferle, OSF who serves at St. Paul’s Catholic School. Earlier in the month, we said goodbye to Sister Elizabeth Murphy, OSF and Sister Maria Gross, OSF who participated in the life of St. John Vianney Parish for so many years. They taught many families about the importance of saying thank you to God and to sow seeds of gratitude among His people.
Offering thanksgiving proclaims hope in God. The theme for Respect Life Month, the month of October, is Christ Our Hope: In Every Season of Life. Through our Christian hope in the Resurrection, we are given the grace to persevere in faith. Our sacrifices on behalf of the Gospel of Life can contribute to the redemption of this current culture of death. The Harvest Ball, a celebration of thanksgiving on October 19, speaks to this hope as the adults with disabilities of the Bishop Grady Villas community come together to celebrate their abilities. Likewise, volunteers and supporters of Pathways to Care gather at the Soup Bowl Supper to offer thanksgiving for the ability to serve veterans and others who are homeless with medical needs.
First responders, St. Francis and all the saints, the religious sisters, people with disabilities, the homeless return to the Lord glorified what God has offered each one. I say thank you to each one of you who live in praise of God and offer thanksgiving through your prayer and sharing the bounty given you through, with and in God. In all circumstances, we give thanks to you, O Lord.