Friday, March 12, 2010

Expressing Gratitude: Recognizing and Honoring Our Employees!

Each year we have a special prayer service honoring our employees who celebrating anniversaries of their employment with us. The awardees--some sisters, some lay employees--serve in a variety of capacities: housekeeping, maintenance, food services, groundskeepers, administrative assistants, directors of various congregational offices--each a valued part of what keeps us operating smoothly. Yesterday was the 2010 celebration. I had been asked to prepare the prayer service and, although I started out with a basic theme of gratitude, I wasn't sure where to take it from there. I got busy and looked up a lot of quotes about gratitude but wasn't sure what to do with them once I had them. I was aware that other years the planners had always had some kind of symbolic representation and/or ritual and I was really struggling to come up with something.
Then a few weeks back I was watching the closing ceremonies of the winter Olympic and something clicked. Why not do an Olympic theme? Maybe someone--not me--could make replicas of Olympic medals and I could paste the quotes on the back. A visit to my boss, Florence Smith, was the answer. A wonderful graphic designer, Florence agreed to design something and the result was a gold Olympic medal with "The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia" printed on the front. Our secretary Karen McEvoy printed them, cut them all out, reinforced them with cardstock, and taped the quotes to the backs.  A bit of red, white, and blue ribbon and the medals were ready to go. Florence also suggested that she might make an Olympic torch and--the torch was created, complete with yellow and red tissue paper flames. I decided that our 20-year awardee would carry the torch.

Although I can't reprint the entire prayer service, my introduction pretty much sums up the theme and set the tone.

We walk before our God
thankful for God’s presence in our lives,
a presence that breathes gentleness,
that heals our brokenness and loves us into wholeness,
that embraces us with goodness so pervasive
that our lives can be but echoes of a continuing hymn of

And today, especially, that hymn of thanks resounds a bit louder as we gather in gratitude for our employees, our coworkers, who celebrate service anniversaries of five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years of dedicated service.

Recently—along with people from around the globe—we watched as the world honored the Olympians—those athletes whose skills of varied kinds won them acclamation, applause, and medals of honor. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to claim and to honor our own Olympians today—the men and women whose skills and dedication to detail make all of our day-to-day lives a little better.

Each of our Olympians is wearing a gold medal--we have only gold medal winners!--designed and made by Florence Smith and Karen McEvoy. On the reverse side of each medal is a quote on the theme of gratitude. Know that we are truly grateful for all that each of you does for all of us. Leading our Olympic procession is Somnut Brewster, our 20-year gold medal winner.

So…let the games begin as we join in song and in prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude in honoring our Franciscan Olympians.

Our Olympians began their procession up the middle aisle of chapel to the music of David Haas' "Give You Thanks." I have to say that the first verse was pretty much drowned out by the applause of those attending the celebration--employees and residents of our motherhouse. That was all the awardees needed and they got right into the spirit of the celebration--waving to their fans and showing off their medals!

We used one of my favorite scripture passages--Philippians 1:3-11--which I felt aptly summed up the whole idea of gratitude. Dan Schutte's "All My Days" and "Give Thanks to the Lord" rounded out the music. Joyce Rupp's "Prayer of Gratitude" made a perfect closing prayer.

Sr. Esther Anderson, our congregational minister, and Sr. Donna Desien, a member of our leadership team, distributed the gifts to the awardees. You can see the gifts in the photo at the top of this post.

Of course, no celebration is complete without refreshments and our wonderful food services staff provided us with all kinds of good things to bring our celebration to a close.

Sr. Andrea, our very gifted musician, once again lent her talents to help make the celebration complete.

Awardees gathered in the back of chapel to receive their Olympic gold medals.

Sumnut Brewster, our 20year awardee, prepares to lead the procession.

Let the games begin! The Sisters of St. Francis Olympians are applauded by the those gathered for the celebration.
Our 15-year awardees: Sally Freeman, Bill Webb, and Tom Wright. Not present was Mary Vecchio.

Our 10-year awardees are Sr. Corinne Wright (black sweater) and Mike Sabolcik (green shirt). Unable to be present for the ceremony were Sisters Betty Kane and Mary Vandergeest and Joe Vecchio.

Our five-year awardees are Sr. Fran Acton, Tom McCaney, Laura Mirigliani, and Sr. Mary Smith.

Sr. Esther greets 20-year awardee, Sumnut Brewster.

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Joanne said...

Beautiful wonderful idea. How happy everybody looks. Hope I can come up with some creative like that for my employees.

KAM said...

Thanks for letting us in on your day! Peace. k

breadgirl said...

Hello Sister
I enjoyed this post very much. It certainly is nice to see employees appreciated for their work. Thank you for alowing us to be part of your lovely service. God bless you.

Sita said...

How heart warming to honour those who serve humbly and with all their heart. I recently read a blog post on a missions blog that deals with human trafficking and I thought I must share this with you:
True Olympians surround us, in single moms, in people abounding while suffering immensely. I have a feeling you're a true Olympian as well, Sister, and I am pleased to 'know' you.
Love, Sita


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