Perspectives on Thanksgiving

 

 

[Background: The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart are one of eight women’s religious communities who collaborate to support Asylee Women Enterprise (AWE), a non-profit organization that assists women asylum seekers as they build new lives in the United States.  The women hail from a variety of countries, and fled their homelands because of persecution.  They come to the US legally and go through an extended vetting process to gain asylum here. AWE and the other religious congregations support these women by assisting with housing, employment and education, and with building community.]

Recently, several asylum-seeking women who lived with the Mission Helpers have moved on to independent living, along with jobs and/or further education.  During their time living among the Sisters,  the women and the Sisters formed close bonds.  We cherished their time with us as we got to know each other. As we listened to their stories, we were filled with admiration for their strength, courage, faith and resilience in leaving home and loved ones behind, and starting over in an unfamiliar country.  The following are excerpts from letters that they wrote to us.

“I wanted to thank you for your love and care these last years. As a 19 year old girl in a new country, my only question was, what am I going to be?  Today, I can firmly say that I have a good future.  I stayed at MHSH, and not a single day did I feel like I was not at home.  I was surrounded by love, and good people.  I will never forget how you made me feel special on my birthdays.  You celebrated my life!  Today, I am leaving MHSH not as a stranger but a child of MHSH who is going to follow her dream.”  -G.

“To my amazing Sisters: Thank you for opening the door for me when I was homeless and had nowhere else to live.  The years that I lived with you made me so attached to Mission Helpers.  I feel like family and proudly call this place my second home.  The words “thank you” are not enough to express how grateful and indebted I am to the entire community”.   -S.

In reflecting upon our time with these women, we are profoundly grateful for their presence among us..  They have enriched our lives beyond measure.

We are also very grateful for you, who love and support us in so many ways.  We wish each of you a blessed Thanksgiving with your families and friends.

 

 

Giving Thanks

As we gather with family and friends around our Thanksgiving tables, we offer a reprise of this video by Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB on the grace of gratitude.  Appropriate for any time during the year, it is especially fitting for this day of giving thanks.  May we cultivate the habit of being grateful for our blessings throughout the year.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart! We are truly grateful for the love and support of our friends and benefactors over the past 125 years.

 

See more reflections by Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB, at www.gratefulness.org.

The Blessings Come Down

Thoughts on Thanksgiving by Carolyn Rodgers, Cook*

I remember the first Thanksgiving meal that I ever cooked.  My husband, who was my fiancé at the time, said that I should do the turkey because I was a cook.  I was working at Pappas Restaurant at the time; I was a short order cook and I had never prepared a main course.

I put the turkey in a very large pan filled with water—I thought I would boil it down. I thought that’s where the gravy would come from.  My fiancé looked at it and said he didn’t remember that his mother used so much water.  I didn’t say anything, but I was panicked. I didn’t want to ask any family member for advice, so I called my friend Margaret, who was a cook for the Mission Helpers.  After she finished laughing, she told me to get rid of the water, dry the turkey, salt and pepper it and put it in a pan with a tight lid.  She said it would make its own gravy.

It turned out beautifully and I’ve been roasting turkeys like that ever since—hundreds of turkeys.

And that’s how I’ll roast the turkey for the Mission Helpers’ Thanksgiving dinner.  I like everything that I cook for the Sisters, but Thanksgiving is special.  I prepare the turkey, potatoes and dressing the day before, and the Sisters prepare their special dishes.  Sister Dolores does a multi-layered gelatin salad and makes rolls; Sister Dolly makes a great cranberry mold, Sister Natalie prepares green beans with almonds…

I love Thanksgiving.  I love what I fix for the Sisters, and, on Thanksgiving Day, I love being with my family. For me, the day is all about family and friends.  Everyone comes together; all the food is fresh—nothing from cans on Thanksgiving Day.  And we laugh; there is lots of laughter.

There will be 17 or more people.  Before the meal, we form a circle, hold hands and thank God.  We each give God thanks for something—even the littlest children.  This takes a long time, but everyone gets to express their gratitude.

I believe that gratitude can take you a long, long way.  If you’re thankful to God, God will bless you, and the more thanks you give, the more God will be thankful for you.  When the praises go up, the blessings come down.  I really believe that.

Being together and being thankful is what it’s all about.   Everybody has something they can be thankful for—everybody.  Even if you live in a hut, you can say, “Thank you, God, for this space.”  On Thanksgiving, you thank the Lord for everything and everybody—that’s it.

*Carolyn Rodgers has been the cook for the Mission Helpers Community since 1984 and has never served the Sisters a boiled turkey.