UPDATED: Fr. Fields, Fr. Viviano preach messages at Ecumenical Thanksgiving prayer services


This updated version includes additional information from the service in Tipton.

Father Robert Fields challenged an ecumenical assembly to spend Thanksgiving Day and every day like a day in eternity: with a heart filled with gratitude to God.

“That’s what we’re going to be doing in heaven, thanking God for allowing us to be there with Him!” Fr. Fields stated at a prayer service the Sunday evening before Thanksgiving Day.

The priest preached the message at this year’s Clark County Ministers Association Thanksgiving Service in the Kahoka United Methodist Church.

About 40 people representing various local congregations — including St. Michael Parish in Kahoka and Shrine of St. Patrick Parish in St. Patrick, of both of which Fr. Fields is pastor — attended.

Many local ministerial alliances organize ecumenical Thanksgiving prayer services in the days leading up to the holiday.

These services have become a long-standing tradition in areas of this diocese and offer a rare opportunity to gather and pray united with members of other Christian congregations.

The services usually include several Bible readings, prayers and hymns of thanksgiving. Offerings of money and canned goods are usually taken up to help people in need in the community.

Congregations take turns hosting the services and leading the singing, and pastors take turn preaching the message.

Fr. Fields proclaimed a reading from the Letter to the Colossians (3:12-17), concluding with: “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

“This reading and the other readings that were chosen for the service remind us how bountiful God is,” Fr. Fields stated.

He said modern culture encourages people to create a technology-saturated, me-first world for themselves.

“Yet, God is calling all of us to live a grateful, eternal life right now,” said Fr. Fields.

He suggested turning off electronic devices and tuning out sporting events in order to have meaningful conversations over the Thanksgiving dinner table.

“I grew up in a day and age when kids were supposed to be seen and not heard, and we sat and listened to all the stories the adults shared with each other,” he said.

“Looking back, I wish I had paid more attention to those stories.”

“Here and grateful”

Father Anthony Viviano, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Tipton and Annunciation Parish in California, preached the message at the Tipton Ministerial Alliance’s Thanksgiving service on Nov. 20.

St. Anthony Parish hosted this year’s service.

Members of seven local churches joined together in recognizing the Source of all things in our lives and turning that gratitude into positive action in assistance to others.

The service brought together pastors, church leaders and members of congregations from most of the community’s houses of worship.

Well known songs of thanksgiving dispersed throughout the service included “We Gather Together,”  “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” and “For the Beauty of the Earth.”

The service opened with a welcome by Fr. Viviano.

Kevin Wilson, president of the Ministerial Alliance and representing the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, gave the invocation. 

Don Basinger read scripture from the Old Testament, Proverbs 14:21-31, admonishing those who sin by “despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy,” and concludes with, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

Lynn Facemeyer, pastor of the Tipton United Methodist Church, read from the New Testament, Matthew 25: 31-40, which describes the final coming, and ends with the verse, “‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me’” — again, a reference to helping our neighbors.

Psalm 72: 1-5 was read by Roy Steele of Cornerstone Christian Church. The Psalm describes the reign of the righteous king and his treatment of the needy and the oppressor.

Fr. Viviano, in his sermon, lamented the effect a lack of gratitude has taken on modern society.

“One of the reasons the world finds itself where it is, which I would call out of order, is that sense of gratefulness — thanksgiving — is no longer here, and entitlement has taken over,” he said. “We have eradicated Christ from the public sphere.”

Fr. Viviano shared the story of Blessed Solanus Casey, born on a farm in Wisconsin and one of 16 children of Irish immigrants.

He was known for his work with the poor and sick, and one miracle, a healing, has been attributed to God through his intercession in heaven.

Noting that Blessed Solanus, a Capuchin priest, was “a man for all people,” Fr. Viviano said recommended studying his life and work.

“He said, ‘When someone shows gratitude, that is the first sign of a rational being,’” said Viviano.

“As a rational being, we also have the ability to understand, ‘I’m alive, I’m here, I’m grateful, and I had nothing to do with it,’” said Fr. Viviano. “I exist no matter the trials and crosses in life. I am here and I am grateful.”

The priest said he hopes “that disposition can be a springboard for you and me to make us want to reach out and to care for one another, which is what the Ministerial Alliance does.”

He talked about his own blessings of growing up in St. Louis, as the oldest of five children to devout parents, and the blessings he has experienced in his life as a priest.

He told of the blessings he has seen from serving the “clients” of the Ministerial Alliance, people who have come to the local religious community for assistance.

“I often wonder what were some of the roadblocks in their lives, what were the boulders they had to get over?” he said.

“It gives me great reason to reflect on the blessings of my life and what am I going to do about that?” he stated.

This week, the week of Thanksgiving, Viviano suggested that “we all take a personal inventory of the many blessings we have, truly thank the Lord for those, and allow them to be parlayed in reaching out to someone in need.”

Baskets were available for the placement of donations to help the Ministerial Alliance in its work within the community and with transients who often pass through and need assistance to get to their destination.

Mrs. Holloway is editor of the Tipton Times newspaper.