Christmas Commemorations Around the Province

Jocelyn Thomas Features

The friars and parishioners of Holy Name’s parishes and ministries commemorated Christmas with a variety of events.  Some of the many are described below.

In Boston, a wooden figurine of the baby Jesus was carried to the manger in a procession at midnight Mass at St. Anthony Shrine. The nativity scene that is displayed year-round at the shrine was described in a Boston Herald article on Dec. 23.  In the article, David Convertino, OFM, said that the Shrine’s majestic Christmas atmosphere is strong.

“It’s all about memories of childhood that come rushing back,” he said. 

“Nothing about worship at St. Anthony Shrine is less than intense,” said Honen Galea, whose music ministry recently released its first CD titled  “The Arch Street Band: Songs for Worship and Praise.” 

New York Area
In the Bronx, N.Y., parishioners of Holy Cross Church celebrated for the nine days prior to Christmas with their traditional “Misa Aguinaldo” at 6 a.m.  The Misa Aguinaldo is a Puerto Rican tradition that includes daily Mass prior to dawn for the nine days before Christmas, festive traditional music, and a light breakfast afterward. 

On Dec. 15, the Latin American Riders Association held its annual toy drive at Holy Cross.  Every year more than 100 motorcycle riders gather at Holy Cross and distribute toys to the neighborhood children, according to pastorTodd Carpenter, OFM.  On the same day, Robert Frazzetta, OFM, led Christmas carols for religious education students

The parish’s final Christmas event took place on the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6.

“On that day, we held another toy giveaway for our parish children,” Todd said, adding “parishioners had been donating toys throughout the season of Advent.  Many Latinos celebrate the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, as a second Christmas complete with the exchange of gifts and family celebrations.  The Holy Cross Web site has many photos from Christmas celebrations.”

New Jersey

In Wood-Ridge, baskets of food brought Christmas cheer to the needy in the environs of Assumption Church.

Marie Ward reported on behalf of the parish’s Secular Franciscan Fraternity:

“Remembering how Jesus didn’t want to dismiss the people he had preached to without food, we Secular Franciscans also didn’t want those in need in our community to spend Christmas without a special meal.

“The many contributions from our generous parishioners, as well as from local grocers Path Mark, Stop & Shop, Cosco, BJ and A & P, enabled us to present 15 Christmas Food Baskets, each containing a complete meal, for those who frequent our parish food pantry.

“We are grateful for the thoughtful concern of our parishioners and sharing,” Ward said. “Their kindness and caring are a reflection of God’s love.”

In Little Falls, N.J., Our Lady of the Holy Angels Parish held a gift collection, coordinated by Peter Matushin, the parish’s director of communications.  Called Christmas Gifts of Hope, this annual program consists of 12 local outreach organizations that  work with Holy Angels and its parishioners to coordinate and allocate gifts for program participants.  These organizations range from children’s shelters to local schools in urban area.

Holy Angels also sponsors its own program called “Adopt-A-Family.  “This community program gathers gifts and food for entire famiies in great need, Matushin said. These programs “provide a beautiful sight,  the true spirit of Christmas and stewardship in action.  How impressive it was to see community spirit alive and kicking here at Holy Angels,” according to Matushin.

On behalf of pastor Robert Sandoz, OFM, and Gregory Gebbia, OFM, Matushin thanked participants through the parish bulletin.

“It all started with the amazing response from our kind and thoughtful friends and parishioners who took tags to buy gifts for our annual Christmas Gifts of Hope,” Matushin said.  “If that was not impressive enough, many rallied on the weekend to carry, sort and organize the many gifts. Last, but certainly not least, was the kind team of  ‘Christmas Elves’ who came in bright and early on a Monday to help organize and prepare the gifts for delivery. With a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts, these wonderful people worked very hard to ensure the gifts got into the hands of the grateful recipients.”

The true Christmas spirit is alive and strong in this community, he said, adding,  “Everyone should take pride in knowing that, because of the generosity and hard work of the Holy Angels community, we were able to get nearly 1,800 gifts to those in great need.” 

Pennsylvania and South
In Philadelphia, an annual Christmas party was held Dec. 16 for children who come regularly for meals at St. Francis Inn.  A large number of gifts, donated by individuals, parishes, civic organizations, business and other groups were given to the guests.  In addition, the Inn gave meals to more than 150 families to take home and prepare, according to Michael Duffy, OFM.

In Silver Spring, Md., St. Camillus parish held a children’s Christmas Mass on Dec. 24.  The young participants dressed in white and brown tunics.

In Anderson, S.C., a family dinner was held Dec. 16 for parishioners of St. Mary of the Angels Church.  Meat was provided by the parish’s women’s council.

— Jocelyn Thomas is Director of Communications for Holy Name Province.