November 19, 2023

Dear brothers and sisters,

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are called to gather and express our gratitude for the manifold blessings we have received—our lives, faith, family, friends, and the freedom to celebrate in a nation of plenty. In these moments of joy, we must be mindful of our utter dependence on God’s grace, which sustains us in all seasons of life. St. Paul encourages us: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Even when faced with loss, illness, or the complexities of life, our hearts can find reasons to be thankful, knowing that God is with us through each trial.

Recalling my blessings, I am instantly transported back to our first Thanksgiving in America. In November of 1990, my family had newly arrived from Vietnam, settling into the unfamiliar landscape of Flushing, Queens. The memory of our initial celebration is vivid: the startling white of our first snowfall, the cold that seemed to echo the strangeness of our new world, and the weight of starting anew. Our small apartment was a sharp contrast to the warmth of our lost home.

Against this backdrop of change, the late Msgr. Celsus O. Collini, then beloved pastor of Queen of Peace parish, remains a beacon of encouragement for us. I vividly recall him arriving at our door on Thanksgiving Day, his coat sprinkled with snowflakes, bearing gifts that bridged our old and new worlds—two large turkeys, bags full of potatoes, and an assortment of foods we had never seen. As my mother, an adept cook, grappled with the unfamiliar challenge of preparing a turkey, our first “American” guest, the down-to-earth parish priest, savored our crispy spring rolls, creating a perfect fusion of our Vietnamese heritage with American tradition.

The kind act by Msgr. Collini, who would later guide me to the seminary, transformed our Thanksgiving from a foreign concept into a celebration filled with profound connections and communal warmth. His presence and the shared meal that afternoon went beyond a mere cultural exchange; it was an intimate blending of lives and faiths, epitomizing the true essence of being the Church. Since that inaugural Thanksgiving, my reflection often turns to those for whom the holiday might be transformed by such acts of kindness and pastoral outreach.

As we approach this Thanksgiving, let us be mindful of those experiencing their first holiday season in America. Amidst new beginnings, the feelings of uncertainty and isolation can be overwhelming. Our parish has a beautiful opportunity to reach out with warmth and care to the newcomers, the impoverished, the sick, the lonely, and even those neighbors who remain unknown to us. This season, may we embody the spirit of Thanksgiving by offering the same kindness and compassion my family received when we arrived. As we count our blessings and savor our freedom, let us also pray for global peace, particularly in the Holy Land, Ukraine, and all areas marred by strife.

In gratitude for the steadfast dedication of our priests, deacons, parish staff, group leaders, volunteers, and benefactors, I invite you to our Annual Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 23, at 9:00am. Celebrating this Mass together strengthens the bonds of our community and enriches the evening’s feast, adding significance to the blessings we share from the Lord’s Table and with our families at home.

May joy and a profound sense of gratitude fill your hearts as we reflect on the love and fellowship that flows within our parish family. Together, let us be inspired to make our daily lives a reflection of the Holy Eucharist—the ultimate expression of our thanksgiving.

A Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham