The feast was held at the Maryknoll Society house with Father John Eybel, Brother Mark Gruenke, and Maryknoll seminarians preparing the turkey as well as hosting the dinner. The Maryknoll Sisters, who live nearby, joined us, and everyone brought a dish to share. The Chinese guests mingled with members of the larger Maryknoll community at six different tables.
We are fortunate to have these Chinese priests and sisters close by. They are either studying English at DePaul or Theology at Catholic Theological Union. One is enrolled in the Pastoral Counseling Program at Loyola. They are very much involved with Maryknoll, both the Society and our Affiliate group.
Six of the seven are in Chicago as part of the Maryknoll Chinese Scholars Project, which brings them to the US and enrolls them in the different programs in order to prepare them academically to better serve their native church when they return to their homeland.
Our Affiliate Chapter has met with the Chinese students on several occasions. Mary Sluka, a member of our chapter, is on the Board of the US Catholic China Bureau, an organization founded by Maryknoll and the Jesuits to support our church in China. Two of our members, Tom and Florence McGuire, are in frequent contact with the Chinese students, especially editing the papers that they must present in their class work.
Before we ate, Don Woznica explained briefly the history of this uniquely American celebration and then called for prayers of Thanksgiving in our different languages. We heard God called upon in Spanish, Mandarin, Kekchi, Portuguese, Swahili, and Korean, among others. Don then invited us to each give a reason for our thankfulness at our individual tables.
“I thank God for Maryknoll. If no Maryknoll, me not be in America,” expressed Sister Jean Qi at our table. She later wrote in an email, “Thank you very much for the warmly treatment. Thank everyone I met yesterday. I am really touched by your friendliness and kindness.”
I think we can say: Mission accomplished!
Note: Chicago Central Chapter’s annual dinner for the Chinese CTU students is already being planned for the Sunday before Thanksgiving, 2014.