Last Thanksgiving, I prayed that COVID-19 would not be with us this Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, we are still living with the pandemic.
Many people might not feel very thankful after a second year living with COVID-19, which continues to impact our lives. For many who know someone lost to the virus, we continue to remember and pray for them. Further, many of us still wear masks for protection. We are all dealing with the tremendous traffic on the roads, a result of mass transit not being back to normal since before COVID. There is tension over vaccine mandates and the feeling of government overreach in what many feel should be a personal decision. Food prices are the highest they have been in decades. Gas prices have also soared. We are enduring COVID fatigue.
God’s will for us is never to inflict pain or subject us to evil. God’s will, however, sometimes enables us to overcome adverse circumstances because God gives us the strength that we need to live in the midst of adversity and to make the sacrifices necessary for the good of all. We must also remember that our suffering allows us to join our suffering to that of Jesus Christ. This strength that the Lord gives us is indeed something to be thankful for as we continue to endure this second year of the pandemic.
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we need to focus on giving thanks, not only for the harvest, as was in its origins, but to God for the many blessings in our lives throughout the year that has passed.
This year, many Americans received the COVID vaccine, and that has saved thousands of lives. Thanks to the vaccine, this year, we can enjoy a more normal celebration of this great American holiday. Families will likely get together for a Thanksgiving feast, unlike in 2020, when many families had smaller gatherings with just immediate or household family members. I, myself, spent last Thanksgiving with just my brother and sister-in-law, and not with all their children and grandchildren, who bring so much joy to celebrations.
While bigger family reunions may be in order this year, we cannot forget that first, we must give thanks for the gift of life itself. There is no recent time in my memory where so many people have died. We survived a global pandemic, and that indeed gives us so many reasons to be grateful.
Personally, I am thankful for my 51 years as a priest and 18 years as your Bishop here in Brooklyn and Queens. I have received many blessings and am grateful the Lord allowed me to minister in such a vibrant and diverse diocese, rich with culture and faith. I also thank all the clergy and religious here in Brooklyn and Queens, who every day tend to the needs of their parishioners, especially these last two years during the pandemic.
The work of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has been instrumental in serving those who have turned to the Church in this time of great need. The food pantries, the pop-up food distribution sites, the mental health counseling, and access to the COVID-19 vaccine have all become part of their mission. As we approach Thanksgiving, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens will be distributing nearly 3,000 turkeys so that struggling families can have a traditional holiday meal.
I am most grateful for our Catholic school and Religious Education students, who are being raised in the faith and represent the future. I am thankful our Catholic schools are thriving amid this pandemic as they rose to the occasion, turning a crisis into a chance to showcase the best of Catholic school education.
The Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens has put out into the deep, enduring a second year of this COVID pandemic. Our priests, religious, lay leaders, and volunteers have shown the best of our faith during these troubling times. It is my prayer that we will continue to be united by our belief in the Lord and embrace the Good News in our daily lives. There is much to be grateful for, and as God is the creator of all that is good, may we pause this Thanksgiving and give praise to the Almighty.