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Even Pope Goes to Confession

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis said he goes to confession every two weeks, knowing that God never tires of forgiving those who repent but also knowing that having a priest say “I absolve you” reinforces belief in God’s mercy.

Using the literal Italian translation of a Spanish saying, “It’s better to turn red once than yellow a thousand times,” Pope Francis said he knows some people are embarrassed to confess their sins to a priest, but it is the best path to spiritual healing and health.

At his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 20, Pope Francis reflected on the forgiveness of sins as one of the missions Jesus entrusted to his apostles and their successors.

In a world often dominated by “individualism and subjectivism,” he said, many people – including many Catholics – say that God will forgive their sins, and they have no need of the sacrament of confession and the ministry of a priest.

“Certainly, God forgives every repentant sinner, but the Christian is bound to Christ and Christ is united to His Church,” the pope said. “God, in His sovereign mercy, forgives everyone, but He wanted those who belong to Christ and His Church to receive forgiveness through the community’s ministers.

“Priests, too, need confession, even bishops. We are all sinners. Even the pope goes to confession every two weeks because the pope, too, is a sinner. My confessor hears what I say, offers me advice and forgives me. We all need this.”

Through the presence and words of a priest, he said, penitents have “the certainty of forgiveness in the name of the church.”

The Church, he said, does not “own” the power to forgive sins but is its servant and “rejoices every time it can offer this gift.”

Pope Francis said the ministry of the confessor is “very delicate,” which is why the priest must recognize that he, too, is a sinner forgiven by God, the pope said. He must not “mistreat the faithful, but be meek, benevolent and merciful, knowing how to sow hope in the penitent’s heart and, especially, recognize that the brother or sister approaching the sacrament of reconciliation is seeking forgiveness.’

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Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem


At the Investiture Dinner Nov. 23 for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem were, from left, Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, diocesan vicar for development; Nicholas Vendikos, director of development, Futures in Education; Manuel Gutierrez; Stefanie Gutierrez, spokesperson for the Diocese of Brooklyn; Vincent LeVien, director of external affairs, DeSales Media Group; Rita Damato, associate director, Office of Development; Msgr. Kieran Harrington, vicar for communications; and John Heyer II, development officer, Futures in Education.

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Catholic College Files Another Grievance Against HHS

BELMONT, N.C. (CNS) – Belmont Abbey College filed a new lawsuit in its long-running fight against a federal law requiring most employers to provide free contraceptives in their health insurance plans.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the college calls the contraceptive mandate “constitutionally flawed,” “arbitrary and capricious” and says it discriminates against religious groups.

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Diocese Well Represented In Holy Sepulchre Order

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem for the Eastern Lieutenancy held its Mass of Investiture Nov. 23 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Manhattan, followed by dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria.

New priest-members from the Diocese of Brooklyn were Msgr. John Strynkowski, rector of St. James Cathedral-Basilica, Downtown Brooklyn; Father Patrick J. Frawley, CEO, Fidelis Care; and Father James Cunningham, pastor of Holy Name, Park Slope.

New Knights from the Brooklyn Diocese included: Robert J. Anich, Elias P. Bahou, Martin J. Cottingham, Michael J. Coyne, George L. Greco, Manuel O. Gutierrez, William F. Kuntz, Philip Lehpamer, Vincent D. LeVien, Algridas J. Lukosevicius, Domenick A. Mineo, Nicola A. Sisto, Jr., Ronald V. Spence, Deacon Anthony Stucchio, Anthony F.P. Sweeney, George J.P. Sweeney and Paul R. Tocci.

New Ladies from the Diocese of Brooklyn were: Patricia Carlucci, Deborah C. DiLello, Ann Dolan, Stefanie N. Gutierrez, Rosalie R. Mineo, Catherine T. Purpura, Marlanea W. Sopp, Teresa A. Sorrentino, Tina R. Stucchio and Rosemarie S. Weber.

Promoted to the rank of Priest Knight Commander were Msgrs. Michael Curran and Peter J. Vaccari.

Raised to the rank of Knight Commander were: Enrico Casagrande, Joseph V. Dorsa, Thomas A. Golden, III, Andrew J. Koslosky, Wieslaw Marciniec, Ruben Martinez, Louis Pepe and Salvatore Tassone.

New Lady Commanders were: Linda Casagrande, Mary Ann E. Dorsa, Anna M. Golden and Sara J. Gozo.

Promoted to Knight Commander With Star were: Anthony J. Cipriano, John F. Dorsa, Francis J. Keppel, Vincent J. Parrish, Robert M. Sitler and Albert A. Wetherell.

New Lady Commander With Star are: Maureen T. Friss, Linda N. Keppel, Giedre M. Kimpikas, Bettyanne M. McDonouggh, Lucy C. McGuirk, Louise C. Parrish and Carolyn M. Sitler.

Promoted to Knight Grand Cross was Scott E. Jordan, and promoted to Lady Grand Cross was Joanne Fusaro.

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Youth Reflection: Canine Warriors

By Emma Schoppmeyer

Bishop Kearney H.S., Bensonhurst, had the honor of welcoming two Marine working dogs and their handlers during a special  Mass in their honor.



The two dogs, Sgt. Lucca and Jony, and  handlers Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez and Sgt. Brian Riddle, came to meet us at St. Athanasius Church, Bensonhurst. We also met Lance Cpl. Al Brenner, handler for his dog, Grief, who died from wounds suffered in an explosion.

As a big lover of animals, especially dogs, it brought me great joy to see Sgt. Lucca and Jony.

Military working dogs are important to the military mission because they perform tasks that humans cannot. With an acute sense of smell five to 10 times stronger than a human, they are able to detect minute traces of explosives or drugs and alert their handlers of their presence. They sniff for bombs in patrol dangerous explosive zones, and risk their lives to protect others.

The military dogs, along with their handlers from every military service, are deployed worldwide to support the war on terror, including Iraq and Afghanistan, where Sgt. Lucca, Jony and Grief have served.

Sgt. Lucca, a Belgian Malinois, is a two-time Iraq veteran that also served a tour in Afghanistan. She is a specialized search dog trained to detect trace amounts of explosive compounds and warn handlers of their presence. In that role, she participated in more than 400 patrols with at least 40 confirmed findings. On her last deployment, she suffered an injury from an improvised explosive device blast that resulted in the amputation of her left front leg. This injury led to her retirement from military service.

Sgt.Willingham was Sgt. Lucca’s original handler and was teamed with her for the first two deployments. Cpl. Rodriguez was her second handler who did an amazing job of saving Sgt. Lucca when she was injured. Just like the old saying goes, “A dog is a man’s best friend,” Sgt. Lucca and Sgt. Willingham are best friends. He always had her back, and she his, saving his life twice. Throughout their missions together, they have developed an extremely close relationship.

Jony, also a Belgian Malinois, has served two deployments, both in Afghanistan, with his partner, Sgt. Riddle, who is a two-time Purple Heart recipient. Jony and Sgt. Riddle are not only partners, but they are also friends with a durable bond.

Grief, a German Shepherd who served in Afghanistan, unfortunately, is no longer with us. He died from his wounds from an improvised explosive device, and his handler, Lance Cpl. Brenner, has been severely injured, but thankfully survived.

We, the students at Bishop Kearney, are extremely thankful for these handlers and their dogs. We thank them for keeping us safe and for fighting for our freedom. They are truly heroes. May God bless them.

Schoppmeyer is a freshman at Bishop Kearney H.S

Bishop Kearney H.S., Bensonhurst, honored Marine service dogs and their handlers during a special Mass in St. Athanasius Church. Above, standing from left, are Sgt. Willingham, Sgt. Lucca, Cpl. Rodriguez and his wife, Sgt. Riddle and Jony.

Bishop Kearney H.S., Bensonhurst, honored Marine service dogs and their handlers during a special Mass in St. Athanasius Church. Above, standing from left, are Gunnery Sgt. Willingham, Sgt. Lucca, and Cpl. Rodriguez. Sgt. Riddle is petting Jony.

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Youth Views: What is an experience you are thankful for?

sl2Sabrina Lall, senior
St. Francis Prep

I am grateful for my time volunteering at a local elementary school. I met many children that gave me insight on how greatly my presence affected them and how happy I made them.





Logan Blascovich, junior
St. John’s Prep

An experience that I will never be able to forget is going to Australia. For two weeks, I was able to observe a culture on the other side of the world. I give thanks to my parents for making sacrifices to let me go.





Paul Pleho, freshman
St. John’s Prep

One experience in my life that I am grateful for is being able to serve at the holy Mass with the priest. I feel very close to God while I am serving, and I feel that He wants me to serve him.





Alexa Leotta, senior
St. Francis Prep

This year, I am grateful for my brother coming home from the Navy. He travels overseas and is gone for almost a year sometimes. He returned when his daughter, my niece, was born. I am grateful he returned home safe and healthy.



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Pope’s First Writing Lays Out a Vision for Church

By Francis X. Rocca

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In his first extensive piece of writing as pope, Pope Francis lays out a vision of the Catholic Church dedicated to evangelization in a positive key, with a focus on society’s poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged and unborn.

“Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), released by the Vatican Nov. 26, is an apostolic exhortation, one of the most authoritative categories of papal document. (Pope Francis’ first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei,” published in July, was mostly the work of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.)

The pope wrote the new document in response to the October, 2012 Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization but declined to work from a draft provided by synod officials.

Pope Francis’ voice is unmistakable in the 50,000-word document’s – he writes that an “evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” – and its emphasis on some of his signature themes, including the dangers of economic globalization and “spiritual worldliness.”

The Church’s message “has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary,” he writes. “In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.”

Inspired by Jesus’ poverty and concern for the dispossessed during his earthly ministry, Pope Francis calls for a “Church which is poor and for the poor.”

The poor “have much to teach us,” he writes. “We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voices to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.”

Charity is more than mere handouts, “it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor,” the pope writes. “This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.”

Yet he adds that the “worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care. … They need God and we must not fail to offer them His friendship, His blessing, His word, the celebration of the sacraments and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith.”

Pope Francis reiterates his earlier criticisms of “ideologies that defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation,” which he blames for the current financial crisis and attributes to an “idolatry of money.”

He emphasizes that the Church’s concern for the vulnerable extends to “unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us,” whose defense is “closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right.”

“A human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development,” the pope writes, in his strongest statement to date on the subject of abortion. “Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.”

The pope writes that evangelization entails peacemaking, among other ways through ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. He “humbly” calls on Muslim majority countries to grant religious freedom to Christians and enjoins Catholics to “avoid hateful generalizations” based on “disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism,” since “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence.”

Pope Francis characteristically directs some of his strongest criticism at his fellow clergy, among other reasons, for what he describes as largely inadequate preaching.

The faithful and “their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies,” he writes: “the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them!”

The pope devotes several pages to suggestions for better homilies, based on careful study of the Scriptures and respect for the principle of brevity.

Pope Francis reaffirms Church teaching that only men can be priests but notes that their “sacramental power” must not be “too closely identified with power in general,” nor “understood as domination;” and he allows for the “possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the church’s life.”

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Technology Sheds Light On Dark Catacombs

By Francis X. Rocca

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Early Christian burial sites are now easier to see, both in person and via the Internet, thanks to 21st-century technology and collaboration between Google and the Vatican.

“This is perhaps the sign of the joining of two extremes, remote antiquity and modernity,” said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi Nov. 19, at a news conference at the Catacombs of Priscilla in northeast Rome.

A view shows the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. The catacomb, used for Christian burials from the late second century through the fourth century, reopened to the public after years of restoration. Users of Google Maps now can see virtually through the underground corridors of the catacombs. Photos © Catholic News Service

A view shows the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. The catacomb, used for Christian burials from the late second century through the fourth century, reopened to the public after years of restoration. Users of Google Maps now can see virtually through the underground corridors of the catacombs. Photo © Catholic News Service

The cardinal, president of both the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, lauded recent restoration work by the archaeological commission inside the complex of early Christian tombs.

Using advanced laser techniques, restorers have uncovered vivid late fourth-century frescoes depicting Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and SS. Peter and Paul accompanying Christians into the afterlife. Jesus’ face resembles portraits of the Emperor Constantine, who legalized Christian worship in 313.

Cardinal Ravasi also heralded the Nov. 19 debut of the catacombs on Google’s Street View feature, a project he said had grown out of a conversation he had with the Internet giant’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt.

Users of Google Maps can now click the “see-inside” option for the catacombs, which allows them to move virtually through the narrow corridors, tunneled out of soft tufa stone, and to see high-resolution images of the interiors from practically every angle. The brilliantly lit views are in startling contrast to the shadowy reality of an in-person visit.

 A fresco is pictured inside the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. Photo © Catholic News Service

A fresco is pictured inside the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. Photo © Catholic News Service

Google’s Giorgia Abeltino told reporters that almost the entire eight-mile complex of catacombs is now accessible online. However, there is no underground map to let users know exactly what they are seeing.

Also Nov. 19, Google launched a Street View of the catacombs of the Ipogeo di via Dino Compagni, located in southeast Rome. The catacombs are privately owned and not open to the public, so the virtual mode is the only way to visit them.

The news conference at the Catacombs of Priscilla was held above ground in the reconstructed fourth-century Basilica of St. Sylvester, where a new museum displays hundred of fragments of ancient marble sarcophagi, also recently restored. A glass floor offers illuminated views of the sites of ancient tombs below.

Msgr. Giovanni Carru, secretary of the Vatican’s archaeological commission, said the restorations had made the Catacombs of Priscilla a “privileged course” for pilgrims to Rome, helping them to appreciate these “dark places that were lit up by the emblematic and paradigmatic stories of salvation” painted on their walls.

A fragment from an ancient marble sarcophagus is pictured in a new museum in the reconstructed fourth-century Basilica of St. Sylvester above the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome. Photo © Catholic News Service

A fragment from an ancient marble sarcophagus is pictured in a new museum in the reconstructed fourth-century Basilica of St. Sylvester above the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome. Photo © Catholic News Service

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It’s Beginning Too Early To Look Like Christmas

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) – It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Already.

Even before Halloween jack-o-lanterns were carved, retailers were advertising the joys of Christmas gift-giving – and getting – on television. And no sooner will the Thanksgiving turkey be carved before radio stations start playing Christmas music, some of them nonstop, through Christmas Day.

“In a sense we’ve done this backwards,” said Vicky Tufano, general editor for Chicago-based Liturgy Training Publications, which publishes books and other resources for parishes and families on all manner of Catholic life and practice. “We put up the Christmas tree four weeks before Christmas, and we throw it out the next day” after Christmas.

It requires some intentional work by families and sometimes even parishes to keep the intent of Advent intact, Tufano told Catholic News Service.

She acknowledged that even Catholic families unused to instilling Advent customs in homes might be feeling uneasy over the ever-encroaching Christmas creep, even if they can’t put their uneasiness into words.

Christmas, she said, “gets closer and it starts earlier and earlier,” Tufano said, taking note of the new craze of stores opening the night of Thanksgiving Day to get more shoppers – and more money.

“As Catholics, we kind of live in a symbolic ritual world, and we need to interpret the world as we believe it is – that it’s been redeemed by Christ,” she said, even if it requires explaining the presence of so many Christmas lights at the mall. “Think about it and talk about it with your family as a way of Christ being made manifest for the world to see.”

Parishes have “gotten the message” about maintaining the liturgical integrity of Advent and resisting Christmas carols, she added, but “the harder thing is keeping the parish groups from having their Christmas parties on the fourth of December.”

“We’re challenged constantly by the messages of urgency toward ‘retail Christmas’ beginning before Halloween,” said Patricia J. Hughes, director of the Office of Liturgy for the Diocese of Dallas.

“The church gives us Advent to joyfully anticipate the celebration of justice and peace that came with the birth of God-becoming-man, over 2,000 years ago,” Hughes said. “Today, the secular world often mutes our joyful anticipation of the time when Christ returns at the ‘end of time.’”

She added: “There is something wonderful that happens in the church if we turn our hearts toward cooperating with Advent. The parish can help the regular Mass participants as well as visitors and guests by creating spaces of ‘pause’ and ‘time out.’”

Hughes suggested mingling ancient and modern: “Sacrifice a video game for a YouTube video that celebrates the music of the church’s joyful season, both Advent songs of longing and Christmas hymns traditional and true.”

She said, “Christmas caroling or joining in the celebration of Las Posadas can link the secular season with sacred celebration of Jesus’ birth. Advent is a wondrous time to meet a friend for Mass and a simple meal – perhaps someone who has been away from the church and needs a fresh welcome. We evangelize through building these relationships. … The point is the pause that we make during the season – an intentional, simple, doable reminder about the presence of Christ in your life and in the world.”

Rita Thiron, executive director of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, stressed formation as a way to keep the meaning of Advent strong.

“The parish as a whole needs to have a concerted effort to celebrate Advent. That means formation for both the adults and children as to what Advent is,” Thiron told CNS. “Advent by its very definition has a twofold character: to prepare for the first time when Christ came into the world and to prepare for Christ’s second coming.”

Thiron added, “The hearts and minds of people will always be buffeted by things that are antithetical to the church, and that’s why it’s to the church’s credit that they stand firm not only in their beliefs but in their practices and devotions and certainly the liturgy. But I don’t think we’re too far gone at all. We just need to be very strong in our formation.”

When Christmas comes Dec. 25, she said, Christians should celebrate for 12 days.

“I think it’s easy to look at the secular onslaught and completely separate it from the cause, which is the greatest – well, if not the greatest, most joyful event in Christianity,” said Marci Alborghetti, author of the Advent guide “People of the Nativity.”

“I think that’s really the key – to offer a reason.”

Of the secular pre-Christmas avalanche, Alborghetti said, “Do we overdo it? Certainly. Does it get ridiculous? Absolutely. But we’ve got cause to be ridiculous and overdoing it. I’m starting to get catalogs now before Halloween. It’s nuts. You continually have to bring it back to the reason, to be as spiritually excited and thrilled as people tend to try to be from the secular perspective.”

Alborghetti suggested taking a historical perspective: “God is in relationship with us. He develops relationships with us. For all the tension of gift-giving, it’s not easy, because gifts signify relationships, and relationships aren’t easy. It wasn’t easy for Mary and Joseph. We are in times of doubt and uncertainty and political violence and anger.”

She added, “We need that ‘comfort and joy’ as the song said as the Jews and the people of their time did. I think that’s something people tend to forget.”


11/13/2013 10:40 AM ET

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops


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Tablet Talk

Twenty-five volunteers from National Grid’s Finance Department at Metrotech Brooklyn came to Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens Brooklyn Community Center and food pantry to help distribute 200 Thanksgiving turkey meals to the local community as part of their National Grid Day of Service. As part of their volunteer efforts, National Grid donated the 200 turkeys for the distribution. The “fixings” were from the Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens food pantry. Catholic Charities CEO Service Means Giving Robert Siebel poses with the volunteers from National Grid’s Metro Tech Brooklyn Office.

Twenty-five volunteers from National Grid’s Finance Department at Metrotech Brooklyn came to Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens Brooklyn Community Center and food pantry to help distribute 200 Thanksgiving turkey meals to the local community as part of their National Grid Day of Service. As part of their volunteer efforts, National Grid donated the 200 turkeys for the distribution.
The “fixings” were from the Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens food pantry. Catholic Charities CEO Robert Siebel poses with the volunteers from National Grid’s Metro Tech Brooklyn Office.

There is much to be thankful for at St. Pius X parish, Rosedale, where several parishioners have recently come forward to serve in parish ministries.
During November, Maria Fernandez, Urbano Lora, Charlotte Veronique and Arline Volcy were commissioned as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion; Raquel Del Rosario and Ghislane Lebon joined the ministry of lectors; and Emmanuel Fernandez was installed as an altar server. Way to go!

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will visit Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Astoria, on Saturday, Dec. 7 to bless the two new stained-glass windows of the new church vestibule which features the crest of Pope Francis on one and his own episcopal crest on the other. At this time parishioners will also be able to congratulate the bishop on his 10th anniversary in the Brooklyn Diocese. All are welcome to attend the multi-lingual 5 p.m. Mass. For more information, call 718-278-1834.

Join Sister Ave Clark, O.P., for a special retreat night, Gift of Compassion: Coping with Loss During the Holidays, at Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen Chruch, Carroll Gardens, Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome. For details, call 718-596-7750.

Mark your calendar for the New York Encounter Cultural Festival, Jan. 17-19 at in the Hammerstein Ballroom of The Manhattan Center. This three-day public cultural festival is centered around fascinating presentations, artistic performances, conferences, exhibits and information booths introducing a variety of charitable, cultural and work-related initiatives. The event is free and no registration is required. For more details, visit

Join the good people of St. John the Baptist parish, Bedford-Stuyvesant, for a Tim Janis Christmas Concert, Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m. in the church. All are welcome. For details, call 718-455-6864 ext. 2000.


New altar servers were installed Nov. 3, at St. Bernard’s parish, Mill Basin. Back row, from left, are Deacon Frank D’Accordo; Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, pastor; Deacon Chris Wagner; middle row: Taisha Charles, Shawanna Watson, Kevin Thiboutot; front row: Christopher Arcati, Julian Tait, Nicholas DeSena, and Salvatore Blafford.

Msgr. Fernando  Ferrarese, pastor at Immaculate Conception parish, Astoria, has the parish schedule full for December. The parish will honor its patroness, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception on Monday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m.  There will be a festive multi-cultural Mass. Parishioners will bake and prepare desserts from their home countries for an International Desserts Celebration after the Mass in Lyons Hall. On Thursday, Dec. 12, the Mexican-American community in Astoria welcomes all parishioners to the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas. Mass will be at 6 p.m. followed by Mexican food and dancing in Lyons Hall. On Sunday, Dec. 15 at 4 p.m. the parish will host a liturgical celebration of Lessons and Carols from Scripture and Carols from around the world. Six choirs will be performing (English, Spanish, Filipino, Children, Youth and Contemporary) plus guest soloists!!! This will be an unforgettable event for the whole family. Call  718-728-1613.

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