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This Thanksgiving Day, remember the things God does for us

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Father David BonnarThere is one in every parish. It is what might be called the right-hand man or woman who is always present to support the pastor and the mission of the parish. This is typically “the go-to person.” Some might say it is the one who has the pastor’s back. This is the person that every pastor comes to know, love and count on. They are not a “yes person” but someone who can tell us pastors as it is. Sometimes they take the role of “bad cop” as we continue on as “good cop.”

In my first pastorate this person’s name was Stan. He was a retired facilities manager for H.J. Heinz. He was like an encyclopedia when it came to maintenance and facility issues. He knew everything there was to know about lights, leaks, locks and then some. After serving in that parish for five years, I left the buildings and facilities in a better place largely because of Stan. He deserves the credit. 

One Saturday morning he came to the parish to check on an issue at the convent. I happened to be outside at the time. He approached me and did not seem himself. And then he said, “Dave, I am scared. I don’t know how I got here this morning.” It was evident that there clearly was something wrong. He knew it too. And yet his car was right there in the parking lot.

After assessing the situation, I said, “Stan, let’s go get you checked at the hospital.” Not knowing whether he was having a stroke or what I simply took the keys to his big boat like Lincoln and drove him to the hospital. During the ten-minute drive I called his wife Marianna and asked her to meet us at the emergency room.

Stan just could not remember what was going on. And it really bothered him. When we arrived at the hospital, one of the first questions they asked him was to identify who the President of the United States was. Sadly, he could not answer that question. We knew right then and there that something was truly wrong. 

After further evaluation, it was determined that Stan was suffering from a rare type of amnesia that usually only happens once in a lifetime. It turns out it happened a second time to Stan. 

The takeaway from this experience was that it is a terrible thing not to be able to remember. Think about that! Where would we be without our memory? It is something we unconsciously and consciously rely upon every day particularly in our relationships with God and one another. When we fail to remember, life can become difficult. 

In just a few days we as a nation will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Although this year’s observance will be different due to the pandemic, we continue to be true to our American tradition of giving thanks. 

Many of us know this week as Thanksgiving Week. But, in a real sense, this week could best be termed “Memory Week.” For through the faculty of our memory we express gratitude. The shared sentiment on this day for all of us Americans is our shared memory of gratitude. It is our memory that enables us to give thanks. 

 There are no doubt many people and things for which to be grateful this year even in a time of pandemic. What I am truly grateful for is the gift of memory not just in me but in others. The way we remember one another is but another way we show our love. I certainly will never forget Stan. 

As we gather around the table to give thanks or get on our Zoom calls with family, let us pray for the grace to never forget. May we always remember the great things our God does for us. Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Memory Day!

BISHOP-ELECT DAVID J. BONNAR has been appointed bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown, is editor of The Priest and is pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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