A Thanksgiving to Treasure!

Greetings from Wexford!

To update everyone on Teach Bhride Wexford, the four of us have been working diligently and productively in the many ministries and special events taking place in the Clonard community, and to start, I’ll just give a few words on some of them in particular:

  • The Remembrance Service: One thing I’ve noticed, and many past/present TB members would probably agree, that the Irish people deal with death and grief in such a reverent and beautiful manner. Every mass will more than likely be a death anniversary for someone in the community (or contain at least one or more congregational prayer ending in, “Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace, Amen.”) The Bereavement Support Group is an example of an entire Clonard ministry,  where people devote their humble hearts and time to helping others in their grieving process.  This community truly acts as a collective family where no one is ever forgotten or put to rest without being properly honored and remembered. The Remembrance Service that took place earlier in November reflected this sentiment; that most of us have likely lost someone, someone who left with a piece of our own heart, and when dealing with this, we need never to feel alone, misunderstood or outside of God’s loving embrace.
  • Christian Media Trust Radio broadcast sessions: We have begun to record half hour sessions of Advent and Christmas reflections, where we focus primarily on Sunday readings. We share songs and experiences that hopefully can shed light on our individual backgrounds and provide unique interpretations on ways to pray and enter into a rich Advent Season. December 3rd will be our first broadcast, so for anyone who might be interested, stay tuned for the link or station to listen in!
  • Confirmation Enrollment Rite Ceremonies and Parent Info Night: In working with 6th class students, teachers and parents, we are diving into our sacrament preparation at Scoil Mhuire and Kennedy Park schools. This involves not only paperwork and PowerPoints, but also an intentional nod towards our universal faith. It’s not always easy talking about God and religion in general without sounding preachy or overly evangelical, so to find that fine line where holy devotion and sincerity meet is purely the goal when relating to the kids and parents about their upcoming Confirmation.

We also had two major events in the past week that I especially wanted to highlight: Taize Prayer Service and Thanksgiving Dinner!

Over the past month, we had a few preliminary ‘practice Taize nights,’ where a small group of us set up the chapel, assembled the candles, the cross, and the music that would portray the right atmosphere. This was well-worth the effort because we had a great first official service last Sunday night with over 45 people attending. We are hoping more and more people (including those from secondary schools) can share in Taize prayer and will spread the word. I find for myself it is one of the most holy experiences that you can have, and by settling into the rhythm and interior movements that can only be born in silence and candlelit song, you are simply invited to sit in the intimate presence of God. As of now, Taize is a budding ministry at Clonard Church, so please pray for its continual growth!

Our annual Thanksgiving Dinner took place last Thursday night, a bit earlier than our traditional American holiday. It is lovely way for us to share some our culture and gratitude to the Irish community that has become our home away from home. Each of us made special dishes, including (just to name a few) green-bean casserole, incredible beef soup, yummy stuffing, LOTS of turkey, chicken, ramen-noodle salad. Plus desserts like banana bread, pumpkin rolls, pretzel-jello, baked cinnamon apples with ice cream, and more – all with lovely little name cards and flower center-pieces. It was a lot of work! We are still recovering. Yet the meal was incredibly worth the effort and in high praises among the Tea Ladies and many other esteemed guests. Of course, our wonderful host, Msgr. Lennon, was entirely gracious and helpful in letting us use his kitchen, expertise, and home for this dinner. We ended with a grand ol’ session of music where everyone sang, played an instrument or joined in on favorite party-pieces. A great night was had by all.

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In reflection, these two events have really stood out to me the most. Not because they required a lot of energy and preparation, but because they honor the gift and benefits of being in this special community. The more we each give of our talents (whether in the kitchen or the chapel) the more we are met with the full acceptance, warmth and joy that these wonderful people continue to give to Teach Bhride, year after year. Memorable nights like these direct my heart toward an intrinsic gratitude for the good things in life. Whether in prayer or feasting, mediation or sing-songs – Myself, Maureen, Jim, Sara, and all the Teach Bhride members of the past will always treasure the memories from this fabulous Wexford family. And through these cherished moments, I believe that God has reminded us that we’re continually invited into His loving and eternal feast of thanksgiving. With the “real” Thanksgiving in near sight, I hope our American friends and family, (and any readers) back home can also know that invitation – that God is truly blessing you daily. Even on days where you might be in the midst of hardship, whether its grief over a lost loved one, mundane or difficult work, solitude, hurt, or illness, God gently reminds you to look at the wider realm of His goodness. He understands you, in all that you are. He knows where you’re at right now, and where you are called to be. In taking note of all that there is to be grateful for, we can realize the reality of God’s love. It’s an accepting and abounding love, manifesting in many forms.

From across the ocean, from wonderful Wexford, Ireland, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!