One of the things I look forward to each year is our Thanksgiving celebration. As a seminarian we would gather as a seminary community to celebrate, now as a priest at a parish I gather with the other Holy Cross priests from the various South Bend parishes to celebrate Thanksgiving. In some ways this parish celebration feels a little “homier.” The 11 of us gather in someone’s rectory and we all pitch in and share the responsibility of preparing the meal. Like many other homes we sit around, watch football, share a few laughs, see who can fit the most whipped cream on their slice of pie, and fight over the leftovers. Although I might not be able to be with my own family on Thanksgiving, I feel very much at home with my brothers in community. The time we spend together gives us a chance to catch up, share a bit about our lives, and support each other in ministry. In many ways our Thanksgiving celebration is a family celebration.
Given the fact that our parish communities tend to be on the small side (two to three people) those times when we are able to gather as a larger group are particularly special. They are great reminders to me of just how important our understanding of community life is in Holy Cross. Our call to live in community is not simply a call to live with other people, but to understand ourselves as part of a much larger narrative and that we are all nourished by a common heritage, history, and mission. Like any other family, though we might live in separate houses and different states, countries, and even continents, we are bound together by something much deeper than mere convenience. Our love and commitment to God, to each other, and to our ministry bind us into a community that is also truly a family.
My experience of Thanksgiving the past few years has been so important to me because of its witness to our community life. It is a sign that I never minister alone and our parish community doesn’t operate on its own, that we are part of something much bigger, richer, and fuller. Like all families it certainly comes with its quirks, disagreements, and challenges, but it is also always there to nourish us, support us, and sustain us. Although we gather over turkey, pie, and football, it is the time we share together that allows us to truly give thanks to God.
Fr. Brian Ching, C.S.C., is associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in South Bend, Ind. He is originally from Flushing, N.Y., and is a graduate of Holy Cross High School. He entered seminary while a student at the University of Notre Dame. He professed Final Vows in 2012 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2013.