At the borders of Rhode Island, there is usually a blue sign that states “Discover Beautiful Rhode Island.” I have been taking that invitation very seriously — using my first months in the Ocean State to get to know the communities and people of the Diocese of Providence and the State of Rhode Island. During the warmer months, I have had a number of opportunities to march in parades, join in processions and feasts, and participate in blessings and civic occasions. You have already heard about some of these occasions in this column.
Most recently, I joined in the celebrations at Our Lady of the Rosary in Fox Point and then at St. Rocco’s in Johnston. A few weeks before, I saw the remarkable work of the Narragansett Lion’s Club at the blessing of the fleet in Galilee. In each of those instances, and in many others, I have been struck by the number of people it takes to organize and hold these multiday events. I have met scores of volunteers across Rhode Island wearing their event or feast t-shirts, laboring away at grills and fryers, moving equipment and supplies, directing crowds and processions, looking after people in the heat, providing the music for prayer and fun, and myriad other tasks. I have watched them do all this freely and joyfully for their parish and community. Many are raising funds for their parish or for worthy causes, but all are giving the gift of themselves as they volunteer to help and to serve.
As I discover beautiful Rhode Island, I am deeply moved by the beauty of this generous community spirit. For many Rhode Islanders, this may seem ordinary. As a new Rhode Islander, I can assure you that such volunteerism has become all too rare in modern culture. People are more and more prone to spend their days at home with their devices. I consider this remarkable community spirit one of the most beautiful aspects of the Ocean State, and I thank God for the call to minister among such good people.
So first, allow me to express my deep gratitude to all those who step up and work so hard to make these feasts and events successful fundraisers, “fun-raisers,” and community builders. In addition to the work at hand, you give a powerful witness of service to your neighbors and community. I would like to encourage all of us to express our gratitude to these volunteers early and often.
The best way to express gratitude to these volunteers is to join them. May they inspire us to get off the couch and get involved! We may discover that doing so does more than benefit the community. Ask any of those volunteers about their “sweat equity” and you will hear of the way in which their work brings joy and meaning to their own lives and relationships. Volunteering helps the community, and it is good for the soul!
Tennessee might call itself the “Volunteer State,” but this State of Hope is also a state of generous, joyful volunteers. Happy Feast, folks, don’t forget to try a doughboy!
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