Webster’s Dictionary tells us that “Celebration is a noun. An event, usually a social one, when people come together to show happiness or appreciation for something that has taken place.”
I invite you to travel with me back in time to St. Michael’s Mission House in Conesus, New York. The date is September 7, 1964.We are in sacristy. I invite you to peek in and see Brother Bennett–that was my name as a Brother—and Brother Becekt industriously working away as young novices. The heavy-duty work—cleaning the chapel and waxing and buffing the floors had already been done some days before. Now you would see us doing the lighter, more pleasant work like arranging the dozens of flower vases, ironing the gorgeous vestments that were used only on the feast days of the BVM, and ironing and laying out the three albs for the celebrant, deacon, and sub deacon. You would see us joyfully stretching out the blue and gold ribbons that would soon be wrapped around the twenty-six candles on the high altar.
Back at home we also had special treasures that only came out for those very special occasions. At Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and when family birthdays came around, my Grandmother would ceremoniously bring out those hidden tablecloths, dishes, glasses, and silverware. These added items made the whole occasion very special. It made these occasions shine like jewels both then and even now when I go back to them in my memory.
Today things are different. Most parishes do not have those special vestments used only for feast days and celebrations. In our fast-food, time-conscious society there seems to be a sad diminishment of those little extra items, decorations and perks that make our celebrations at home extra special. Perhaps we have become too modern and too mechanical.
In the Riverside Community we are making great effort to plan, and execute especially the two provincial wide celebrations, the Birthday of Mary (we also honor those celebrating jubilees), and the Feast Day of our Founder ( we also hold our Christmas gift exchange). Our Provincial would like us to have well prepared celebrations and he has appointed me as the Coordinator for Celebrations.
In our September house meeting Father Rector Alan Jenkins and I discussed this dearth of involvement and we decided that we would like to put more into these celebrations. We need to come together and show our happiness and appreciation for one another! We remembered how it was back in the Mexican Province and how all the members bar none attended our two big yearly assemblies. Only the very old and sick stayed home. These included our members from far off Cuba and Nicaragua. The second eldest of our province traveled over 1000 miles to be with us!
At our Founder’s Day celebration this year on September 8 we celebrated the common jubilees of five USW members: Fr. Briccio Tamoro who celebrated his 50thyear of ordination, Fr Raymond Wea who celebrated his 40thyear of ordination), Fr Frank Tinajero who celebrated his 40 years in vows, and Fathers Duong Nguyen, Hieu Trong Nguyen, and Peter Zhai who all celebrated their 25 years in vows.
This year’s Founder’s Day celebration was especially grand since it was the first time since 2019 that we were relatively free of Covid and we were blessed to have 2/3 of our members here celebrating with us. It is the first time in three years that many of us had seen one another. It is always a special joy when we have members from the distant Districts join us, so it was a particular pleasure to have Fr Peter Zhai, the District Superior of the Northern District, with us for three days. Wishing to put more variety in our celebrations, he invited us to go to the North next year saying: “The North welcomes you with open arms!”
This year Fr Rector and I tried to put more into our celebration to make it the jewel that I remember from long ago. I would like to thank all of those who helped to make it such a jewel. They include Akhil Thomas, Benny Obon, Benny Le, and seminarian Throng for helping with the decorations and the table waiting. They did a fantastic job! Many of us have special talents whether it be in the area of cooking, music, liturgy, the media, and even the least favored by most necessary: dishwashing.
Let’s make our next celebration also a grand occasion. We can start preparing right now by marking our calendars. If you know the date you have time to find someone to replace you at the parish for a few days. The date is set for: WEDNESDAY JANUARY 11, 2023!