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A message from the bishop

A season of gratitude

Giving thanks to God (November 2017)
My dear friends,

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving later this month. Americans must feel the same way. The Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest travel periods of the year, with family and friends gathering for a special meal. Thanksgiving Day holds lots of good memories. It reminds us, as families and as a nation, that we have so much to be grateful for. Living with gratitude is one of the most important choices we can make in life. Not only do we find blessings – blessings find us. The more grateful we are, the more blessings we seem to receive. Gratitude leads us to believe that God is with us always, not only when we are happy and things are good. What a gift it is to be able to thank God for all things and in all things! If we are thankful, how much richer our lives will be!
We think back to that Thanksgiving meal celebrated by the Native Americans and the Pilgrim settlers in October 1621 after their first harvest in the New World. From the perspective of history, it seems marvelous and incredible that such a gathering was even contemplated. But back then, the Pilgrims were struggling to survive – half of the Mayflower colonists had already perished – and the Indians helped them throughout that horrendous first year. They were grateful to be alive. They were grateful for the good harvest. Unfortunately, that initial harmonious contact was gradually forgotten. Relations deteriorated, resulting in plunder, the loss of territory and freedom, and near annihilation for the Native peoples.
Perhaps the modern icon of the Thanksgiving Day ideal was illustrated by Norman Rockwell for The Saturday Evening Post. “Freedom from Want,” also known as “The Thanksgiving Picture,” is the third of the Four Freedoms series of four oil paintings by the American artist. The works were inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union Address, known as the Four Freedoms.
President John F. Kennedy may have articulated best the foundation for the holiday Americans celebrate today. He issued a presidential proclamation in November 1963, stating: “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of
their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together, and for the faith
which united them with their God.”
Today the Thanksgiving holiday has expanded to include football, parades, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In the midst of all these modern aspects, more meaningful facets of this holiday can be overlooked. Food drives for the needy are popular at Thanksgiving time. Volunteers serve thousands of Thanksgiving meals in local communities across this land. Giving Tuesday has recently become an international day of giving at the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season in response to the consumerism that exists alongside the meaning of this season.
Many Americans begin their Thanksgiving by attending religious services to offer thanks to God for abundant blessings received. Mass on Thanksgiving Day in our parishes is a beautiful and well-focused experience of gratitude. We can use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to “reset” ourselves and focus on the blessings in our lives. It affords us a spiritual opportunity to anticipate the season of Advent, when we prepare to give thanks for the greatest gift to the human race – our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Why not begin this Thanksgiving Day with Mass at your parish? When I celebrate Mass on this Thanksgiving
Day, be assured that I will thank God for each of you, and for all that you do to live out and spread the Good News in the “vineyard” of daily life. May we all bear a rich harvest for the Lord! 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak
This Giving Tuesday, Nov. 28, join us in #GiveCatholicWM, an initiative to increase charitable donations to Catholic organizations throughout West Michigan.
• Donate to your favorite Catholic parish, school or organization at
• Volunteer your time through the UpRise (, a new lay volunteer movement in the diocese.
• Tell us how you’re “giving Catholic” by using the hashtag: #GiveCatholicWM on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.