I'm thankful to have a parish to call home: St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center at the University of Arizona. Blessed day of thanksgiving celebrating 50 years at our campus location!
Today, the parish that Dan and I call home celebrated 50 years in a church building at the corner of 2nd & Cherry on the U of A campus. During the mass, I was just overcome with thankfulness, gratitude, and emotion for having a parish home – and for being part of the community here. I am so thankful to be part of a people.
I wasn’t really even aware of how much belonging to a people meant to me. …but, once the tears started this morning, I keep remembering and recognizing just how important it is to belong to a people.
Growing up in a small town, you become aware at an early age that you belong to a community. Within that community are smaller communities – pockets of people who belong to each other perhaps because of the church they attend, the club they belong to, their neighborhood, or by blood. Within our town, we had our church, our Country Cousins (our neighborhood group that celebrated birthdays/holidays/each other that lived in about a 2-mile radius of each other), Jaycees/Mens’ & Women's Club (for my parents), and then later, our 4-H clubs…and, of course, the friends made from school activities.
Our circles/communities grew as we grew older. The boards that my parents served on expanded our circle to the county; Adair County Pork Producers, in particular, became one of our communities. Our circle within the county subsequently expanded the more involved we became with 4-H and showing at the county fair. Then, our circles expanded because we were serving on county/area/state councils.
…and all of this…connects you to the people that you live near. The connection to one another, especially in rural Iowa, binds you. This belonging stirs a need deep in your soul – to be with one another, for one another, love and serve one another, and meet others’ needs. This belonging is part of you.
…and, outside of your community, it is hard to find again. After I graduated and was living in Ames, the ache for community was almost impossible to bear sometimes. Yet, I always could go home – where I was known and welcomed; where I belonged. Eventually, I found community in my church.
…and, today, I became aware that (finally) I am finding that – within our church, yes; and, even within the state, through Dan’s job. Yesterday was U of A’s homecoming and Dan’s School hosted a tailgate. It was great to see his co-workers – our friends, and their kids and feel…at home. It was great to connect with his former students, who feel like part of our extended family (yes, a little like our kids). It was great to connect with judging team alumni who we see at Cattle Growers Events and have real conversations.
Belonging – having a people – is so important to us, as human beings. We were made for it. Today, I was able to pinpoint what it is that has made the transition to Arizona so hard. I am without my people. Yes, YES, I have my person. My person is so vital and integral to my purpose; I am called to my person. But, we have also been called to a people. We are not just for ourselves.