Authored by Daniel Conigliaro
Every family has their own Thanksgiving traditions. Playing the annual football game on the back lawn, watching the Macy’s parade, or enjoying Grandma’s special cornbread stuffing or Aunt Sally’s pumpkin pie are just some of the timeless traditions that make Thanksgiving special to each person. To become part of a family means learning the traditions and stories that a family holds dear and sharing these moments of celebration with one another.
This Thanksgiving was my first with the Oblate family. I come from a small family and am used to small gatherings for the holidays, so it was a new experience for me to share Thanksgiving with almost thirty people! Br. Joe, our master cook, had not just one or two, but three birds in the ovens to make sure everyone was well-fed (plus, we wanted some leftovers). There were all the traditional foods you would expect: stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, plenty of pie, and even mulled wine, a new experience for me. All the seminarians helped prepare the meal in some way (I made my mom’s classic cheesecake), and it was truly a family effort.
Yet what most impressed me was the experience of community. Some of the priests from our retreat house in Milton joined us for the big meal. Looking around at everyone enjoying the food, laughing and sharing stories, you could really sense a fraternal bond and camaraderie among the priests and brothers. These men were more than a group guys living and working together; they were a family. Community life, much like family life, has its challenges. It is no easy task to bring together men from different family, social, and ethnic backgrounds, with a wide range of life experiences, under the same roof and expect them to get along with each other. It takes works. But it is these moments of celebration and joy that really manifest why we live this life together: to grow in unity and love as brothers striving after the same goal of being conformed more closely to the heart of Christ.
Thanksgiving is a time to look back on the many blessings we have received and to give thanks. As I look back on the past year and my first semester with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, I have much to be thankful for. Last year at this time, I had no idea where I would be celebrating my next Thanksgiving. God, however, never fails to take care of His little ones. In January, my spiritual director recommended I take a deeper look at the Oblates. I had known who they were but had never seriously considered them before. I contacted the vocations director shortly after, and was in Boston visiting St. Clement’s by the first week in March. After I returned home, my encounter with the community and my experience of the Oblate charism continued to resonate with me. Originally, I had been planning to apply to the diocesan seminary, but I soon realized that I would not be at peace with myself or God if I didn’t pursue the Oblates. I made the decision to ask for an application, and by the first week of June I was accepted for the coming fall. Now, I have begun my discernment with the Oblates in earnest. I do not know yet what shape the road ahead will take, but I know without a doubt that God has called me now to this family to fall more deeply in love with Him and to draw closer to the hearts of Jesus and Mary. And I am truly grateful for the men with whom I am privileged to travel this journey of faith.