Ellen Sullivan Witness Talk

Ellen Sullivan  Grateful Giving Witness Talk  November 2017

Mary Immaculate Parish, Bellport, NY

I first learned about giving back in gratitude when I realized that God had been watching  over me for years. It was hard growing up in a strict household. Religion classes, mass on Sunday (no laughing or talking) and 2 hour lectures at home on the homilies we just had heard. Eventually we four siblings were going in different directions and away from the church. I found myself working three jobs as a single mom to support a mortgage, a student loan, as well as the need to put food on the table. As a registered nurse in the ER there came a time when we decided to go on strike. I lived for 5 months without health insurance and with the fear of losing my home. With the unrecognizable strength of the Holy Spirit within me I found the courage one day on the picket line to help a colleague much less fortunate than I was! That $500 check given out in gratitude to my friend (without fear or question) was the beginning of the story of why I am here with you today.

Looking back my negative reaction to giving back in gratitude was, "I am not worthy". How could I be a participant or productive member of the church? I had been away for so many years without God as my center of balance. Maybe I could just bake a cake, help move tables, donate financially what I could. I thought I could be visible yet invisible.

What changed my mind about giving back in gratitude was our Mary Immaculate family. Not one person but many. Each time I was invited to belong, to participate, to step up, I knew my worthiness was apparent not only to God but to my new parish family and so also to me. I bless those who see the goodness and kindness in others and invite them to join and belong. With this new sense of belonging I felt I had a gift from God. It felt right to start giving to the church beyond what I thought was comfortable financially.

Grateful giving has become a benefit to my whole family. Now church is a household word in a good way. I came to believe that I can benefit from the joy of living out God's words and actions one step at a time. Not tomorrow, not next week but today and during this grateful giving 3 weeks. I am worthy!  I do deserve to belong!  I need to start giving beyond my comfort zone. God always watched over me, gave me a blessed life, a blessed family. The Kingdom of God is here on earth right here at Mary Immaculate. I want to cherish it, take care of it, and be responsible for its future and existence.