Thursday, November 25, 2010
While the temperature was a bone chilling 12 degrees, the skies were sunny and the roads clear as I drove the 25 miles north to Fort Thompson to concelebrated mass. Fr. Bernie began the mass by reintroducing me to the parishioners I already know and cherish from my time as pastor there. His point was that I’m a living example that we have much to be thankful for, especially when we’ve come through a rough stretch of life, be it health or other issues. I know many in that congregation have included me in their prayers, and I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude.
After mass, Sr. Charles had a few turkeys ready, and people brought along the other fixings. About 30 people stayed in the hall to have their Thanksgiving meal together. Some would repeat the festivities later at home. But for some it was their only holiday meal, which is why I find it so meaningful to return to the parish for that tradition.
TJ is one of our commissioned lay ministers in the church. He quit drinking years ago and has sponsored countless people through the AA program. He also has been a great promoter of retreats the Sioux Spiritual Center offers to help people trying to overcome addictions. He said that giving up drinking created a totally new life for him – like being born again. In case I needed a reminder how tough life can be for some families, he said that of the six boys in his family, he is the only one who lived past the age of 32. All but one of the deaths were alcohol related. After he raised his own family, he now has custody of 5 relatives ages 3-8, and is trying to raise them in a safe and loving environment.
Meeting people who make a difference like that on the reservation is truly inspiring.