Cardinal O'Malley attended the 150th anniversary of St. Andrew Parish in Billerica. Pilot photo/CardinalSeansBlog.org
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In the United States, one of the most beautiful national celebrations that we observe is Thanksgiving. This holiday recalls the early pilgrims who arrived in New England and, after surviving the ravages of winter with the help of the local indigenous communities, had a great celebration to give thanks to God for their freedom and the abundance of land.
We celebrate this holiday in the fall and, in many ways, it is like the harvest feasts celebrated by many cultures. In the United States, however, it is recognized as a time when families gather together, realizing they have been blessed by God -- and they show their gratitude by sharing those blessings with others.
This week, in our own Catholic community, there were many activities in parishes and other organizations that demonstrated the practice of sharing our blessings. I was able to participate in two of them.
On Saturday morning, I went to Yawkey Center in Boston, where Catholic Charities, in collaboration with United Way, distributed turkeys and Thanksgiving meals for over 2,000 families.
There was also a similar event organized at the Cathedral by Father Kevin O'Leary and the parishioners to distribute Thanksgiving meals to families in need.
Archdiocesan Social Justice Convocation
On Saturday afternoon, I went to Boston College High School to attend our 10th annual Archdiocesan Social Justice Convocation.
We are grateful to Pat Dinneen, who was one of the initiators of the convocation when she was a member of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, and for all the support that it has received from Father Bryan Hehir.
One of the things that we announced during the convocation is the creation of a new Archdiocesan Social Justice Ministry that will be able to bring recommendations to the archdiocese on the issues related to the social teachings of the Catholic Church.
In general, Catholics are very quick to respond to calls to perform the Works of Mercy, but the justice agenda goes beyond this. It addresses the need to change structures in society, so that people's dignity will be respected. For the Church, life issues are the centerpiece of our social gospel, but many other social justice issues impinge upon dignity and protection of human life -- income inequality, immigration policies, housing, healthcare, and education. The social teachings of the Church, and particularly of the Holy Father, have been rich in underscoring the need for Christians to try to build a civilization of love, in which the most vulnerable are cared for. A civilization in which people are willing to share the gifts of the earth with those in need -- and to help people have the opportunities that will guarantee they can lead a life of dignity.
St. Andrew Parish's 150th anniversary
On Sunday morning, I went to Billerica for the 150th anniversary of St. Andrew Parish, where the pastor, Father Shawn Allen, and his vicars, Father Hal Obayashi and Father Ronald St. Pierre, are doing a fine job.
Around 150 years ago, many of the first parishioners were people fleeing from the starvation and poverty of Ireland and came to Billerica -- and with great sacrifices created a vibrant parish.
It was suitable that the celebration happened the week before Thanksgiving. Parish anniversaries such as this one are always a celebration of the faith of the people who built that community.