November 16, 2010 // Local

Thanksgiving Blessings Fill Hearts with Gratitude

Compiled by Kay Cozad

All across America families and friends will gather to celebrate the nation’s designated holiday of gratitude — Thanksgiving. It’s a time to recall the nation’s humble beginning and all the challenges and blessings that have brought it into the 21st century. Family traditions and favorite recipes will renew a sense of belonging and deepen the ties that draw travelers back to their origins. In the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend cherished prayers, recipes and traditions will personalized the Thanksgiving gatherings with the ever-present foundation of gratitude for God’s grace and joy.

Thanksgiving prayer
Wendy Summers, member of St. Pius X in Granger, wrote a simple prayer she holds dear after a Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) experience in July 2007, which she says, “opened the flood gates of my heart.” She prays it daily, offers it to friends in need and has designed a holy card to hand out as well. Summers says of the prayer, “Those words were always in my heart because this prayer is thanking God for the Trinity and asking for the power of God’s love so that I can make it through the day.” Her prayer is, “Almighty God our Heavenly Father, I give thanks to you for this day; send down Your Son Lord Jesus and the power of your Holy Spirit so that I might know and love you in all I say and do today.”

Sparkling Thanksgiving memory
Mary Arend of St. Gaspar’s Church in Rome City holds a joyful memory of a Thanksgiving day long ago and says, “At the first Thanksgiving celebration I attended with my future husband Rick, his brother-in-law and sister had brought a bottle of champaign to celebrate and announce that they were pregnant with their third child. They told me that they had made the announcement of each of their pregnancies this way, and that it had become a family tradition, so we should consider making our announcements the same way after we were married and had conceived.” 

Unfortunately, Arend had been informed by doctors that she would most likely not have children. Though she felt only joy for the expecting couple, her heart was heavy with the knowledge that she and her future husband may never carry a bottle of champagne to a Thanksgiving gathering.

Arend continues, “But much to our surprise, you can only imagine the joy we experienced the following year when we were able to take a bottle of champaign along for the Thanksgiving family gathering and announce that we were pregnant with our first child. It was truly a Thanksgiving we will always remember! The gratitude in my heart to God for that precious life in my womb was more than I could express in words. Rick and I have been married 25 years and are the proud parents of six beautiful living children, and we have two miscarried babies in heaven as well. Each Thanksgiving we remember and thank God for the gift of life and our beautiful family.”

Seasoned Thanksgiving tradition 
Vicki Welch, parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, and her family of five celebrate Thanksgiving together as their extended family lives out of town. The Welch tradition has each family member responsible for preparing part of the meal — a joyful culinary undertaking. But Welch’s favorite part of her family’s tradition is not sharing the bounty of food. She says, “… the best part of the day is sharing our thoughts of Thanksgiving. We each get 15 slips of paper that say, “I am thankful for ______.” We each fill them in and throw them in a basket. As we are eating dinner, we pass the basket around the table and read the slip of paper and try to guess whose thanksgiving it is. Some are easy to guess and some are not so easy. Through the years, as our children have grown up, we try to “fool” each other by either being vague or showing thanks for something out-of-the-ordinary. This really makes us think of our many blessings.” 

New traditions amidst the old
Claudia Herber, parishioner of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, has seen holiday traditions change and grow in the two years since her beloved husband Bob died. She says, “Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, even over Christmas and birthdays. It was a simple time of food, family and thanks to God for all our blessings.”

Though her family continues to hold dear the cherished tradition of each reciting a personal blessing or prayer before dinner, much has changed within the ever growing family. Herber says, “I am still examining my feelings about holidays without Bob. They will never be the same, but I am still blessed with family. We are still finding some new traditions … we wrestle with five grandchildren now, trying to get their picture taken all together every year, to watch their growth. And we laugh about corralling them all in one place.”

Herber continues to be grateful that her family honors Bob in some way at each holiday. She reports, “Special thoughts of Bob have been mentioned in our prayers these last few years.”

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. Delightful memories of past holiday gatherings and even honoring those who have gone before us help shape a grateful heart.

An Italian Thanksgiving
Terry Andorfer and her husband Phil, parishioners of St. Charles Borromeo in Fort Wayne, began a new tradition years ago as their adult children left home. Because of Terry’s Italian heritage the couple made homemade ravioli together. She says, “Phil helped me make them that first year. His job was to fork around the edge of each and every one of the ravioli. That first year we made about 100 ravioli.”
The following year two of their granddaughters wanted to help and as the years progressed more of the granddaughters came to enjoy the festive family event. Eventually Terry had each granddaughter design her own apron to be worn at the Thanksgiving ravioli gathering. She says, “We now make over 150 meat ravioli and about 100 cheese. Each one of these ravioli is forked by, of course, the youngest granddaughter. We usually make them the Sunday before Thanksgiving and then I freeze them.” With 12 granddaughters and four grandsons, Terry says, “I hope this tradition can follow my granddaughters through their lives here in Fort Wayne or away from home.”

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