Celebrating the fall harvest with a special thanksgiving Mass, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory joined the students of St. Michael’s School and the parish community of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Ridge, Maryland on Oct. 9, 2020.

“Your excellency, we thank you for visiting us here at the parish that the sun first rises on in our archdiocese, rising on our beautiful weather and the crops that we have been working with this week,” said Father Peter Giovanoni, the pastor at the southernmost parish in the Archdiocese of Washington.

Archbishop Gregory said that coming together “to praise God for the bounty of the harvest,” was a special joy for him.

Ronny Contreras-Alvarez, a student at St. Michael’s School, introduced the Harvest Mass, saying that the occasion was a time for the community to gather, “honoring farmers and all the wonderful food they’ve provided for our tables,” he said.

“We think about how blessed we are to have so many wonderful gifts from God, and we also think about all those who do not have food to eat,” Contreras-Alvarez said. “God designed our Earth as part of His great creation. He filled the Earth with food to nourish us. He gave us a warm sun, good soil, and rain to make our crops grow. These crops feed us and make us grow strong.”

Archbishop Gregory joined the students of St. Michael’s School in Ridge, Maryland for Mass on Oct. 9. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj) 

In his homily, the archbishop highlighted the partnerships between God and man that come together to produce a harvest.

“All those who touch the earth in order to bring forth the harvest, do so in partnership,” Archbishop Gregory said. “All those who tend the animals, who are the creatures of God, do so in partnership. All those who sow and plant, do so in partnership. There is a partnership and divinity in coaxing forth a harvest that is present in no other human enterprise.

“All those who farm, plant or keep creatures for the harvest know that they are in partnership with the Lord of Creation. They depend most humbly on God’s annual generosity so there is the proper balance between warmth and rain, between night and day, among all the elements of creation so that the Earth will yield its bounty,” the archbishop said.

He also expressed gratitude for the community of men and women that comes together to produce a fruitful harvest.

“We give thanks for the partnership of farming families, husbands and wives, children and relatives, neighbors and hired laborers who work in union to achieve what no single one of them can do all alone,” he said. “This partnership is a direct reflection of the intention of God that the human family live in peace and in unity.”

This unity among men, Archbishop Gregory said, is the theme of Pope Francis’s new encyclical, "Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship," which was released on Oct. 4, 2020.

“May the Lord bless all of your efforts this year with faith and joy and abundance,” Archbishop Gregory said. “May the partnerships that are acknowledged here today bring God glory and praise, both now and forever.”

Archbishop Wilton Gregory gives his homily at the Oct. 9 Harvest Thanksgiving Mass at St. Michael's Catholic Church in Ridge, Maryland, where he was joined by students from St. Michael's School. In the photo below, students offer prayers during the Mass. (CS photos/Andrew Biraj)

Students at St. Michael’s School celebrated the fall harvest throughout the entire week leading up to the Mass. The week began with a local Amish produce auction where the fourth grade class purchased the food that the schoolchildren ate for lunch during the week. Continuing the celebration of the local industries, a local waterman also gave a presentation to the students about the crab industry.

Lila Hofmeister, the principal at St. Michael’s School, thanked Archbishop Gregory at the end of the Mass for traveling to the southernmost school in the Archdiocese of Washington.

“You are now truly in a place that the locals call ‘God’s country.’ With the vast fields and majestic waterways, where historic St. Mary’s City, the birthplace of religious freedom and the technology quarter from the Patuxent River air base and local innovations meet,” Hofmeister said.

Lila Hofmeister, the principal of St. Michael's School in Ridge, Maryland, speaks at the Oct. 9, 2020 Mass. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

St. Michael’s School was founded in 1918 to provide a Catholic education for those seeking one in the area, Hofmeister added.

“We are a determined community, having raised over $350,000 annually since 2007, equaling $4.9 million to support the school budget in order to preserve the faith-filled gathering place of love, education and bringing souls to God,” she said.

Hofmeister told the archbishop that the entire St. Michael’s community rejoiced when he arrived in Washington and took to heart his words, “It is through grace and growth that help guide us through these challenging times.”

“Your compassion emanates as you, the good shepherd, lead us,” she said. “Thank you for your partnership, we are truly honored.”