Christmas Festivities Around the Province

Wendy Healy and Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

NEW YORK — Ministries around the Province celebrated Christmas in a variety of ways over the past few weeks.

Festivities of St. Francis Friends of the Poor, which runs residences for the mentally ill and homeless in New York City, began two weeks before Christmas, according to John Felice, OFM, SFFP president. 

Thomas Walters, OFM, organized tree-trimming parties at each of the three residences, along with trips to see the Rockefeller Center tree and decorations at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In addition, each residence held a Christmas party with Chinese food and gifts, including sweaters and items donated by the community. A special Christmas day meal was served at each residence, and SFFP residents also enjoyed a New Year’s Eve pizza party, John said. 

“Throughout the season, we do all we can for what is a difficult time for many of our tenants. They appreciate our efforts and we are reminded of the true meaning of Christmas,” said John, who in 1980 founded the organization with John McVean, OFM. 

CREATE, the Harlem ministry established nearly 40 years ago by Benedict Taylor, OFM, held an annual Christmas party on Dec. 21 for children of St. Benedict’s Day Nursery, operated by Franciscan Handmaids of Mary, and the children of Westminster House, CREATE’s housing for single mothers. Christmas lunch was served for all residential clients. CREATE also gave gifts to clients’ children, said Ralph Perez, the agency’s director.

Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, N.J., the Province’s long-term care facility, celebrated a holy and traditional Christmas, according to A. Francis Soucy, OFM, director.

“We began with evening prayer at 4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve,” said Francis. Afterward, the friary celebrated a festival of carols, as is often observed in Europe.

Christmas morning at Holy Name Friary began with 9 a.m. Mass, a festive meal at noon, and supper after evening prayer. In lieu of gifts from Santa, most friars donated to a New Jersey non-profit organization that supplies food and housing to the poor, according to Francis.

The members of the Province’s Franciscan Volunteer Ministry helped run Christmas events at two FVM sites. A third event in Wilmington, Del., was postponed due to a snowstorm.

In Philadelphia, the FVMs hosted a “fun Christmas party for about 20 kids who came to St. Francis Inn, the Province’s soup kitchen,” according to FVM program director Katie Sullivan. She added, “Many people generously donated gifts for the children to enjoy.”

In Camden, N.J., four FVMs helped with an Advent program at St. Anthony of Padua School. “It was an incredible and inspiring show,” Sullivan said.

On Christmas Eve, friars and volunteers including representatives of Mychal’s Message, the service organization founded to honor the memory of the late Mychal Judge, OFM, distributed gifts to guests on St. Francis Breadline in the heart of New York City. They gave out 500 bags containing hooded sweatshirts, collected during Advent, as well as scarves and other items. The biggest donors to the project, according to staff member Ed Trochimczuk, were the church’s worshipping community, members of St. Francis Knitters, and students from the Franciscan Academy in Union City, N.J.
— Compiled by Wendy Healy and Jocelyn Thomas