Local pastors enjoyed a foretaste of Christmas when Maimonides Medical Center, Borough Park, kicked off its annual Celebration of Light program Nov. 8.
Now in its 23rd year, the Celebration of Light is a community outreach effort through which the hospital provides some parishes with $1,000 grants to help defray the costs of lights, trees and decor during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
A Nativity scene, miniature trees and sparkling bows greeted pastors and staffers from 38 parishes when they arrived at the medical center for a festive luncheon and gifts in the form of this year’s checks.
“It is amazing to see the attendance grow year after year,” said Frank Naccarato, a member of Maimonides’ board of trustees, who welcomed guests. “It tells us that you’re supporting us, as we’re supporting you.
“Anytime we can build that bridge and reach across the community to different organizations, it’s a wonderful thing.”
That connection between Maimonides and local churches began when Brian Long and John DeLosa, of Long and DeLosa Construction, volunteered to help build a Nativity scene and decorate the grounds of Visitation Monastery, Bay Ridge, in 1995.
The late Larry Morrish, a community activist from Bay Ridge, worked with Maimonides to fund and expand the program from parish to parish, along with State Senator Marty Golden.
A moment of silence in honor of Morrish, who died in 2016, was led by Msgr. David Cassato, a member of Maimonides’ board of trustees.
Msgr. Cassato delivered the invocation for the afternoon program, which also included a slideshow of photos showing how parishes have used grant monies to illuminate their Christmas displays and bring the light of Christ to the individuals and families in their communities.
“Indeed, we truly need light in this world – a world that seems overcome by darkness, a world that seems overcome by division,” said the monsignor, also pastor of St. Athanasius Church, Bensonhurst.
In prayer, he asked God to help program participants “to work together, to be light for all people.”
This year, the Celebration of Light will support 30 Catholic parishes, six Orthodox and Protestant churches, the Fort Hamilton Army Base Chapel and Visitation Monastery where it all began.
“One of the things that is really special about Brooklyn and about Maimonides is that it is a place where so much difference comes together, and comes together for the greater purpose,” said Kenneth Gibbs, president and CEO of Maimonides.
He recognized community leaders who have helped build the program through the years, including Maimonides’ own Douglas Jablon, senior vice president of patient relations, who strives to “build the fabric of community” for which the medical center is so well known.
Gibbs was proud to share the hospital’s recent advances: becoming the only comprehensive spine center in Brooklyn, earning comprehensive stroke designation and reducing emergency wait times. But he also acknowledged that health care goes beyond medicine.
“The thing that I think is so important – that is constant and that we carry forward – is that … the health of everybody is in the fullness of who they are. It is in their faith, in their community, in every aspect of who they are as human beings and that’s the pledge we try to live up to.
“That’s why the fabric of our relationships with you are so important,” he told the clergy members and lay people present, “because we will not effectively take care of people unless we treat them for who they are.”
Three churches new to the program this year are Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Williamsburg; St. Philip’s Episcopal, Bedford-Stuyvesant; and St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands.
Father Dwayne Davis, administrator at St. Thomas Aquinas, is grateful to Maimonides for its generosity, and to Msgr. Cassato, who was instrumental in connecting his parish with the program.
“It is a great honor and blessing for our community to be part of this 23-year tradition,” Father Davis said. The grant will go toward Christmas trees and lights.
The parish’s sacristans, Holy Name Society and its newly revived Boy Scout Troop No. 193 have volunteered for decoration duties. “They’re really excited and happy to give their time to this,” Father Davis added.
Celebration of Light – Christmas Tree Lighting Schedule
St. Edmund, Sheepshead Bay, 6 p.m.
– St. Gregory the Great, Crown Heights, 6 p.m.
– Good Shepherd, Marine Park, 6 p.m.
– Our Lady of Angels, Bay Ridge, 6 p.m.
– St. Anselm, Bay Ridge, 6 p.m.
– St. Patrick, Bay Ridge, 6 p.m.
– St. Dominic, Bensonhurst, 6 p.m.
– Holy Cross, Flatbush, 5 p.m.
– St. Mark, Sheepshead Bay, 5 p.m.
– Visitation Monastery, Bay Ridge, 6:30 p.m.
– St. Agatha, Sunset Park, 7 p.m.
– Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Williamsburg, 7 p.m.
– St. Mary Mother of Jesus, Bensonhurst, 8-8:30 p.m.
– St. Andrew the Apostle, Bay Ridge, 5:45 p.m.
– Regina Pacis, Bensonhurst, 6 p.m.
– St. Bernard, Mill Basin, 6 p.m.
– St. Ephrem, Dyker Heights, 6 p.m.
– Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dyker Heights, 6:30 p.m.
– Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Carroll Gardens, 7 p.m.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands, 6:30 p.m.
St. Francis de Sales, Belle Harbor, 7 p.m.
St. Bernadette, Dyker Heights, 7 p.m.
– St. Athanasius, Bensonhurst, 6:30 p.m.
– St. Finbar, Bath Beach, 6:30 p.m.
– St. Brendan, Midwood, 4:30 p.m.
– Immaculate Heart of Mary, Kensington, 7 p.m.