Greetings and a Merry Christmas to you all!
Before we go through this week’s beautiful events, I want to invite all of you who live in the Boston area to mark the beginning of the new year with us, at Saint Mary Parish in Waltham. We will celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God with a Mass that will take place on the evening of Dec. 31. Adoration will begin at 10:30 p.m. and the celebration of the Eucharist will begin at 11:30 p.m. Every year more people of all ages join us for the event. I cannot think of a better way to start the new year than celebrating the Eucharist together.
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For the fourth weekend of Advent we visited with Father Steve Rock at St. Agnes in Reading.
For the last two years, the parish has presented “A Night in Bethlehem,” a living exhibit in which a large number of parishioners depict various citizens in the city of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth.
It is particularly organized so that families with children can experience the hardships and difficulties the Holy Family would have experienced in Bethlehem, a bustling city full of other people also there to register for the census.
It was a joy to be there with Greg and Donis Tracy and experience the exhibit with their nine children.
There were angels, shepherds, Roman soldiers and a wide variety of shopkeepers, such as bakers and basket makers.
When you started, they gave you a cloth bag of sheikels, so you could purchase items as you walked through the streets of the city!
It was really something the children became immediately engaged in.
Everyone could make a “basket” at the basket shop
Painting an ornament
What really impressed me, too, was the large number of parishioners who took part in the event.
Father Steve even dressed the part!
Another thing I particularly liked was that the stable for Bethlehem was actually inside a garage, which is really the modern version of what a stable is.
To top it all off, it was wonderful to experience our visit to Bethlehem on cold, snowy night that made it all the more “Christmas-y.”
I am very grateful that the parish did this because, due to political correctness, there are fewer opportunities for children to be exposed to the Christmas story if they are going to a public school. So this was a wonderful opportunity for children to experience, in a unique way, what that “Night in Bethlehem” was about.
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Later Saturday, I met with Immaculée Ilibagiza, who was in Boston. She presented me with a copy of her latest book, “Our Lady of Kibeho,” as well as a rosary and CD of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.
We spoke about the apparition of Mary in her country and that Immaculée is dedicating herself to promoting the place of the apparitions as a site for pilgrimages in Rwanda.
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Sunday morning, we were visited by the members of the Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo in Boston. They have two priests and two seminarians, who are living at the rectory of Sacred Heart in Lexington.
One of the seminarians, Pietro, will be going to the John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C. to continue his theology studies.
The other seminarian, Deacon Paolo, was a physician in Italy before entering the seminary. He has just finished his theology studies and, after his ordination, will be going to the missions in Africa as a doctor and a priest.
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Sunday night, we attended the Catholic Charities Christmas Gala at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel.
The larger organization, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston, was formed from the local chapters in the communities that still retain some amount of autonomy. This event was hosted by the Greater Boston Catholic Charities, which hosts the gala every year. Vivian Soper did a great job organizing it along with the president of the board of advisors, Michael Gilleran, and the rest of their board.
The president of Catholic Charities, Tiziana Dearing, gave talk about the difficulties people are facing at this time.
She noted that was great that we can have a “Christmas” Gala. After all, we are a Catholic organization, whose mission began the night Christ was born.
As part of the program, the second and third graders from the Columbia Road campus of the Pope John Paul II Academy presented a Christmas Pageant.
Afterwards, teenagers from Dorchester’s Teen Center at St. Peter’s performed traditional Cape Verdean dances for us.
This year’s gala raised more money than at any other time in the history of the event. I think this reflects the heightened awareness on the part of the public that so many people are suffering because of the economic downturn.
Just in the last three months, Catholic Charities has given out more than $80,000 in fuel and rent assistance. Our food pantries are being used heavily and our parishes have responded so well to help restock those shelves, as the needs are greater than ever.
Speaking with Tiziana Dearing
We are very grateful that people are responding, given that forecasts are that things will get worse before they get better. This is a time when many people will be turning to the Church as they lose their jobs and, in some cases, even their homes.
Christmastime was a time when the Holy Family was homeless, there was no room for them at the inn. We must make sure that there is room in our hearts to make sure there is room for those in need.
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Yesterday we had a farewell lunch for three members of my office staff who will be retiring at the end of the year: Kaye Woodward, Katie Reardon and Ann Marie Patterson.
From left are Katie, Ann Marie and Kaye
Each of them has given years of devoted service. However, Kaye is one of the longest serving employees of the archdiocese. She began working for Cardinal Cushing as a young woman just out of school, and has been here ever since.
At the lunch, we presented them with white orchids and everyone’s best wishes for them and their families. We conveyed our heartfelt gratitude for the generous and cheerful service that they have provided, not only to the people in our office, but to the countless number of people who have dealt with them over the years.
They will be sorely missed. It won’t be the same without them. However, I am glad to say that Katie, though she is retiring, will be coming back to do some part-time work with us.
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Finally, since I couldn’t send a Christmas card to everyone, I’m putting it on the blog. The theme is, as you can read, a beautiful Madonna.
“Mama bilong jisas”
The Red Madonna and Child by Sr. Maria van Galen, FMM
After attending World Youth Day in Australia this past August, I visited Papua New Guinea where there are friars from my Order stationed as missionaries. While there, I saw the beautiful image pictured on the front of this card. I wanted to share it with you.
Sr. Maria, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary, and a world-renowned artist, painted Mama bilong jisas (“Jesus’ Mother” in the Pidgin language of Papua New Guinea). The painting is a representation of the Child Jesus and His Mother Mary as seen through the eyes of the native peoples of this Pacific island-nation. The image can be seen in homes and churches across the country. The depiction of Christ and His Blessed Mother as Papua New Guineans helps the people to identify more closely with Christ and demonstrates the universality of our Catholic faith.
However, I think my card has been trumped by the card sent by Bishop Steve Reichert, the Bishop of Mendi, Papua New Guinea, who sent this picture out!
Have a merry and blessed Christmas!