The holiday season began a little earlier than expected this year, and it wasn’t with retail sales and early store openings – those were saved for Black Friday.
Instead, the holiday season began Nov. 19 at Maimonides Medical Center, Borough Park, kicking off the annual Celebration of Light.
Each year, the medical center provides some parishes in South Brooklyn with a $1,000 grant to help defray the cost of Christmas trees, lights and decorations for the church building. Established in 1995, the celebration has entered its 20th year.
The program began at Visitation Monastery, Bay Ridge, when Brian Long and John DeLosa of Long and DeLosa Construction Group, LTD, volunteered to build a life-size Nativity scene. The initiative has expanded every year, and now 32 parishes, including some that are not Catholic, receive grant money.
“With all the commercial activities, we wanted to remember that we are Christians and wanted to remember Jesus, and that’s how we put this thing together,” said Larry Morrish, a Bay Ridge community activist who helped found the event.
Msgr. David Cassato, pastor of St. Athanasius, Bensonhurst, who is on the Maimonides board of directors, delivered the invocation via a video message as he lit a small Christmas tree that will adorn his desk this Advent and Christmas season.
“May this season of light be a time of health and protection for all God’s people across the world,” he said. “We pray for that beautiful gift of peace. Fill our hearts with peace, and help us to create a world of peace.”
Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, diocesan vicar of development; Pamela Brier, president and CEO of Maimonides; and Domenick Stanzione, Maimonides executive vice president and chief operating officer, presented parish representatives – many of whom were the parish’s pastor – with a check.
“This is always the highlight of the year when Maimonides gives us the seed money to help us to bring the light of Christ out into the neighborhood and to light up our parkway with the lights,” said Father Robert Adamo, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Windsor Terrace, in which parishioners sponsor lighted Christmas trees or angels that adorn church grounds.
“We’re the only ones who have brought in the angels because the angel is the one who appeared to Mary and also the one who brought us the message of the Savior, who is the Light of the World,” said Father Adamo.
Some parishes will be using the seed money to brighten the lives of its parishioners rather than physically lighting up the building.
“The check is going to be used in service to the community, providing services and evangelization outreach for the youth needing some guidance and some light,” said Father Francisco Walker, pastor of St. Agatha Church, Sunset Park.
The event has accomplished its goal of placing an emphasis on the religious aspect of the Advent and Christmas seasons that often gets lost in the secular celebration of the holidays.
“This hospital has been there for us for a number of years to recognize our churches and giving them opportunities, not only to raise money but also to bring Christ into Christmas,” said State Sen. Marty Golden.
The Celebration of Light schedule begins Saturday, Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. with a lighting ceremony at St. Gregory the Great Church, Crown Heights.