Led by a Jewish star, local Catholic churches will once again be bright for the Christmas season.
Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park, hosted a reception to kick off the 24th annual Celebration of Light. Kenneth D. Gibbs, president and CEO of Maimonides, presented a $1,000 check to each representative of 30 Christian communities, the vast majority of which were Catholic parishes.
The parishes use the money to purchase Christmas decorations, including lights and trees, around their churches. Some turn the program into a fund-raiser, as parishioners sponsor an individual tree as a memorial to loved ones.
“We celebrate people coming together and working together as community,” said Gibbs. “We come from different faiths but we work to achieve common goals.”
Much of the credit for Maimonides’ involvement was given to Douglas Jablon, executive vice president of patient relations and special assistant to the president. Jablon has been involved with the program since its inception.
The program began in 1995 when the Visitation Sisters at Visitation Monastery in Bay Ridge asked for help with their outdoors Nativity scene, according to Brian Long, of Long and DeLosa Construction.
“We sat down and had tea and homemade cookies with the Sisters and we were hooked,” said Long.
Others at that meeting were Jablon; Long’s business partner, John DeLosa; and community activists, Marty Golden and Larry Morrish.
One by one, different parishes also sought assistance. Today, there are 30 Christian communities involved.
Joining the ranks this year were Our Lady of Grace parish, Gravesend, and St. Michael’s, Sunset Park.
Father Kevin Sweeney, pastor of St. Michael’s, said that his parish youth group organizes the Christmas tree project and proceeds will benefit their tuition fund. The parish plans a lighting of its Christmas tree on Friday, Dec. 7.
A special presentation was made to Anne Strafaci, the retired director of development from St. Patrick’s, Bay Ridge, for her long-time behind-the-scene efforts with the program.