By Deacon Derick Cranston
For The Catholic Messenger
Almost 400 years ago the small Puritan community of settlers at Plymouth came together for a festive celebration. At the celebration were the native inhabitants of the land called the Massasoit. Years later the state of Massachusetts would derive its name from this tribe of indigenous people.
While not nearly as dramatic, the members of Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond, Iowa came together to host a free Thanksgiving dinner for the whole community. Holy Trinity is nestled in an area settled more than 200 years ago by the Amish people. Catholics came later with the arrival of Bohemian and German immigrants. Today more than 20 Christian denominations are located in the area, half of them Amish and Mennonite.
Older people recall that as recently as two or three generations ago mistrust and sometimes animosity existed between Catholics and the Mennonites and Amish. But times have changed, which was evident during the Thanksgiving dinner at Holy Trinity.
“I have come to know a lot of people at Holy Trinity,’’ said Mandy Shelter, a member of the Amish community. “This is the second year in a row that I have come here and the food is really good.” Gladys Fisher, a Mennonite, said, “Our family Thanksgiving isn’t until Sunday and we saw it in the newspaper, so we talked about it and decided to come out.”
This is the fourth year Holy Trinity has hosted the dinner; more than 20 volunteers from the parish were on hand Thanksgiving Day to help prepare and serve food, bus tables and clean up afterwards.
People gave various reasons for coming out to volunteer. “I think there are people that need friendship and fellowship. This is a great opportunity to share,” said Valli Ruggiero. Corine Welte, agreed. “I think it is a way to give back and it is a real community effort,” she said. For Sandy Marner it has become an annual family tradition. She and her husband and two daughters washed dishes, bused tables and helped out wherever needed.
Young and old, families and widowers, people of all faiths sharing a meal together. The spirit of Thanksgiving was alive and well at a small church in rural Iowa.