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Tacoma Dominicans
Celebration of 125 years comes to close

This year, the Tacoma Dominican Sisters are celebrating 125 years of ministry at parishes in Washington, Oregon, and California where they staffed schools. On Oct. 13, Sister Patty Morisset, OP (a Bellingham native) preached the following homily at Assumption Parish in Bellingham, Washington.

Twelve years ago, an associate of our community lay dying. Her breathing was belabored, but with each exhalation she said the words: “Thank you!” I don’t know if she knew the quote from the Dominican mystic, Meister Eckhart: “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you,’ that is enough,” but I believe she knew it in her heart.

Today we have two stories from scripture (Luke 11: 27-28) about lepers being healed, Naaman, and 10 lepers who approached Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. In the latter story, only one of the former lepers returned to give thanks. As so many parables reveal, good comes from unexpected people, a despised Samaritan, and not from those we might expect. He knew that Jesus loved him into health again, but he didn’t just go his way celebrating. He went straight back to the source of his healing and said, “Thank you.” He did what was enough in Eckhart’s words.

Jesus had more to give if the other nine lepers had been open to it. He called ‘giving thanks’ an ‘act of faith’ and it saved the returning Samaritan. In today’s language that man “got it.” Jesus would say of the other nine, “They just don’t get it.” They received the same healing as the 10th leper, but they missed the deeper gift of faith, a chance to enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

In our human way of viewing things, we might wonder, did Jesus take away their healthy skin because they failed the gratitude lesson? No! Not any more than would God stop giving us gifts each day, every day, no strings attached no matter whether we give thanks or not. It is the very nature of God to give, life and love within us. This primary relationship of God with each one of us and with each community is the center of our lives and one of learning what it is to be gracious receivers. It’s so simple, God gives, we receive with delight and we say Thank You. We often ‘don’t get it’ and it takes a lifetime to learn.

Here a few lessons: First, get rid of such expressions as, “Oh no, you shouldn’t have,” or “This cost too much” or “I don’t deserve this,” or “You shouldn’t have taken all your time to make…” How to take all the joy out of an act of generosity for both giver and receiver!

Next, practice saying thank you for small things and firmly place the act of gratitude to God and each other at our center. Give thanks for random acts of kindness around the house such as cleaning, fixing, laundering, taking out the garbage, and verbal acts of welcome, love and affirmation. On a wider scale, imagine the positive effect of gratitude flowing between spouses, between parents and children, between siblings, in the workplace, in stores, restaurants, schools, neighborhoods, parishes, on city streets and highways, between law enforcement and citizens, between liberals and conservatives, even between Republicans and Democrats—the list goes on and on.

Imagine gratitude spreading all over with simple and genuine words spoken with eyes in contact and smiles exchanged. Make gratitude a habit—a good habit, a virtue. Each one of us can do it.

When our Morisset family came to Assumption School in the 1950s, I was a second grader. I was delighted with two pieces of playground equipment, the teeter totter and the merry-go-round. Each taught me lessons of staying centered.

  1. If the teeter totter rested in the center slot, it was easier to keep it balanced, even if near the breaking point.
  2. The closer to the center of the merry-go-round you sat, the easier it was to stay on, to be safe. I can now apply the teeter totter and merry-go-round lessons to our call to keep centered on God.

The three foundresses of our community of sisters knew how to give thanks in all things 125 years ago. One hundred years ago, eight sisters, parishioners and students knew how to thank God, and today we join them and you at the table of Eucharistic Thanksgiving for all the years of blessings in our time with the people of Bellingham, for your wonderful school, and for the future blessings to come.

St. Paul tell us today: “In all circumstances, give thanks… and Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead…” Jesus is our center and source, gratitude our bond with him, so today we will sing “for all that has been we say “thank you” to all that will be, we say yes,” and that is enough.