PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The readers of The Tablet stepped up in a big way this past holiday season, helping make this a truly bright Christmas for children and families throughout the Diocese of Brooklyn and beyond.
Every year, The Tablet conducts the Bright Christmas campaign to ensure that no child goes without a gift on Christmas. This year the campaign raised $119,848.71, which helped push the total amount collected over the campaign’s last 10 years to amost $1.6 million.
The donations helped various schools, churches, and organizations within the diocese make Christmas memorable for children and families in need during this holiday season.
Among this year’s recipients were diocesan parishes, including the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace in Coney Island, whose goal was to provide toys for underprivileged children at their annual Christmas celebration. According to the parish’s religious education coordinator Maria Garces, Bright Christmas was a blessing for the children.
“It’s all about putting a smile on a child’s face,” said Garces, explaining that “we want to make a difference, and we want these children to feel it in their hearts through our teaching and our love.”
On Dec. 18, the school held a suprise celebration for students after Sunday school class. Children who otherwise might not receive gifts were given toys and goodie bags.
Other churches and parishes receiving Bright Christmas funds were Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, St. Michael-St. Malachy, Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Church, St. Martin de Porres Parish, and the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph-St. Teresa Avila, where Father Christopher Heanue said the money was used to buy gifts for the children of the parish to celebrate the Three Kings Day feast and to help aid individual families who are struggling financially.
The students of Ss. Joachim and Anne School in Queens have always opened up their hearts to those less fortunate, and this year was no exception.
With migrants coming into the diocese in increasing numbers, the Queens Village school made a special effort to open its doors to newly arrived children. Principal Linda Freebes called it their mission to help in every way possible.
“With our superintendent, Deacon Kevin McCormack, encouraging schools to help educate migrant children who are here in Queens and Brooklyn, we want to help these families because, after all, we are the Diocese of Immigrants,” she said.
Freebes said the school had taken up a collection last January and deposited it all at the Immaculate Conception Center, then conducted another drive for the Little Sisters of the Poor, who filled 20 boxes and bags of much-needed toiletries, paper towels, tissues, and other basic necessities.
“No sooner had we given that all out than five migrant families from Ecuador approached us and wanted to enroll their children at Ss. Joachim and Anne,” Freebes explained. “That’s when the doors opened up, and we took the children in and gave them uniforms and books while also supplying the families with everything they needed.”
Ss. Joachim and Anne is also the place where the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s food pantry is located, and the school’s teachers’ room is always filled with food for people who stop by every week for groceries, blankets, and other items the teachers in the school help supply. This year, migrant families make up the majority of those seeking aid.
Ss. Joachim and Anne’s history of helping continues with a contribution from the Bright Christmas fund, which once again this year helped them help others.
Futures in Education, whose mission is to offer financial aid and scholarships to the neediest Catholic school students in Brooklyn and Queens, also received a Bright Christmas gift.
This year, the fund also once again helped keep the pantry filled at St. John’s Bread & Life. According to executive director Sister Caroline Tweedy, RSM, their mission is simple: to feed the body, mind, and spirit of anyone in need.
Sister Caroline explained that St. John’s Bread & Life tries to raise funds to provide 750 holiday food baskets for needy families.
“The Bright Christmas funds help us provide this basket along with a gift card that allows a family to purchase a gift of their choice for their child,” Sister Caroline explained. “So, we are grateful for the support we receive, and my hope is that the Bright Christmas fund will continue to assist us in our efforts during the holiday season in the years to come.”
In addition to St. John’s Bread & Life, Bright Christmas support was offered to Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens; St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters; Make a Difference Christmas; Families, Fathers and Children; Providence House; and Reaching-Out Community Services, whose efforts help to put holiday dinners on tables and gifts underneath the tree for many struggling families.
And it’s not too late to help. Any additional funds received will be added to next year’s Bright Christmas campaign.