The following is taken from the Thanksgiving that I printed at the end of the worship aid for my First Mass:
Where do I start to give thanks for everyone and everything that has led me to this particular moment in my life? So many have given so much of themselves in order to contribute to my formation and to support me in every possible way during the last five years in seminary. I’m so grateful for every experience – both the joyful ones and the difficult ones – that have made it possible for me to more fully follow God’s call in my life.
The place we always start, of course, is with Almighty God. It is God who created me and God who formed me. It is God who called me from my mother’s womb – before I ever knew God myself. It is God who tests me and God who loves me and God who is the grace by which I can do things I’m not capable of. It is God whose presence in my life makes it possible for me to get out of bed every day and eagerly anticipate whatever will be part of my life in that day. It is God who continues to call me to repentance and God who forgives and God who blesses and encourages and sends me out to do His will. It is God who makes sense of all the things that confound me and God who is the abiding presence in my life, calming my storms or, more often, just calming me. God is the reason for this day and every day. I don’t have adequate words to convey my gratitude to God for all He has done for me; my prayer is that my life will be that thanksgiving, day in and day out.
My heart is completely full of thanksgiving for my family and friends, and especially my parents. Not only have they been completely supportive of this momentous – and rather late – step in my life, but they have been the reason for it in the first place. It was from my parents and grandparents that I first learned the faith and first experienced God. God has used them to show me grace and love and teach me to look for God in every person and in every experience. That faith has given me so much in my life. I am grateful also to my wonderful sisters, Sharon and Peggy, to my brother-in-law John, to my nieces Julia and Molly, my nephew Danny, to all of my aunts and uncles and cousins, and to all of my friends. All these have been family to me, have been sources of God’s love and grace, and have been supportive in ways that have made this journey so much richer. To all of my family and friends, I say thank you for everything you have always given me in my life.
I am thankful, too, to Bishop Imesch, Bishops Kaffer and Schlarman, to Fr. John Regan, our outgoing vocation director, to the faculty and staff of Mundelein Seminary, to all of my field education supervisors, and all those I have served in those assignments, to everyone in my home parish here at St. Petronille and all who have been part of my formation in one way or another. To say that this five-year journey of formation has been rewarding is the biggest understatement I can make! Thank you all for being part of that.
To paraphrase an ancient Jewish prayer: if I had just received all of this love and support, if I had just had this magnificent journey of formation, dayenu, it would have been enough. But to have all of that and be brought to service as a priest of Jesus Christ, well, my heart overflows. Thank you all. Thank God.
+ Fr. Pat