Over the past few days I’ve had numerous reminders of some of the many reasons I have to be thankful. On Sunday, I was privileged to be able to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral as we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King. After more than 30 years, I am still overwhelmed by God’s goodness in calling me to serve as a priest. To be able to offer Mass in a setting as magnificent as Saint Patrick’s, what I consider to be America’s Parish Church, still seems slightly unreal to me, more than seven months after I was so warmly welcomed as Archbishop of New York.
The next day I celebrated Mass at the Manhattan Correctional Center, a federal prison in lower Manhattan. Although the contrast in the setting could hardly have been more pronounced, I was just as grateful, if not more so, for the opportunity to offer Mass with the prison inmates as I was with the parishioners at Saint Patrick’s. The men and women who are there make up a very important part of my flock, and I, as their bishop, need to be there, to remind them of God’s unconditional love for each of us, even those in prison. They inspire me. One of the inmates came up to me and actually said, “I thank God I’m here, ‘cause with the Lord’s mercy and grace, I got my life turned around.”
Today I visited the Joseph P. Kennedy Center in Harlem, a part of Catholic Charities, and participated in their annual Thanksgiving dinner food distribution. We were able to share turkeys, potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, and more with hundreds of individuals who are now able to prepare and serve a delicious dinner in their own homes. Each year, Catholic Charities is able to serve people in ways almost too numerous to count. I am so grateful for the work done every day by Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, the Executive Director of Catholic Charities, his staff, and the thousands of generous volunteers who help to support our mission to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the stranger in our midst.
Finally, tonight I am boarding a plane to travel home to be with Mom for Thanksgiving. I can’t say it often enough: no matter what happens in my life, no matter how many blessings I receive, there will never be anything for which I am more grateful than to have been the son of Robert and Shirley Dolan. I am very much looking forward to spending a few days with Mom, to celebrate this special holiday with her, and to taste once again what I still consider to be the best pumpkin pie anywhere in the world.
It is my sincere prayer that your Thanksgiving will be similarly filled with a realization of the Lord’s blessings for you and your family.
photos by Michelle Anna Pagano