Gratitude on Labor Day

The big celebrations at the newly and wonderfully expanded St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois will be next weekend, Sept. 6-7, but we have a suggestion for this weekend that applies not only to that large faith community but all Catholics of our diocese:

Use the occasion of Labor Day to offer a prayer of thanks and remembrance for those who — whether it was one month, one year, or a hundred years ago — built our churches, schools, hospitals, Newman Centers, and yes, the homes that shelter our “domestic churches.”

Giving prayerful thanks should be an easy assignment for those in the Catholic community at the University of Illinois who for several months have watched skilled tradespeople pour concrete, hoist beams, lay bricks, install plumbing and wiring, and perform the many other works of labor that transform dreams and visions into reality. The sights and smells of new construction are tangible for the hundreds of live-in students enjoying the new dormitory wing, and for the thousands of those who will meet, pray, and study at the expanded center.

It has been true for decades, but now more than ever St. John’s Catholic Newman Center is the jewel of Catholic campus ministry in the United States.

This should also be a special Labor Day for the many offices and apostolates of the Diocese of Peoria — including the staff of The Catholic Post — preparing to move to a new diocesan pastoral center in the final stages of construction. There are several other building projects in the diocese either winding down or gearing up.

But no matter what pew we find ourselves in this Labor Day weekend, the fact is we are literally sitting on someone’s artistry. And whatever our eyes behold in our churches or Catholic institutions — be it a carved statue, a stained-glass window, a soaring steeple, or the tile, carpet, or wood beams beneath our feet — it didn’t just materialize out of nowhere. Someone, or many someones, worked to make it so, and that includes those who repair and maintain our existing structures.

There are often plaques to remember the donors to a building project, or the parish or diocesan leaders who were the visionaries. But the skilled laborers whose work endures year after year usually remain anonymous.

So on this Labor Day, let’s remember them, whether they are still active or long dead. Let’s give special thanks to laborers who volunteer time or offer services at reduced rates as a gift to the church. And let us pray and work to move closer to the day when all laborers, in our blessed nation and abroad, are treated justly and paid fairly. — Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief, The Catholic Post

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