Hundreds of parishioners huddled together, on Dec. 7, in front of Our Lady Mercy Church, Flushing, to witness their Christmas tree light up the cold night.
Msgr. John McGuirl, pastor, blessed the tree during the parish’s first official lighting ceremony. Parishioners warmed the air with Christmas carols, and Santa Claus presented Candy Canes to giddy children.
Historically, the parish held an annual Christmas fair, Msgr. McGuirl said, but it was time to change it up a bit. This year, a Mass and tree lighting preceded the fair. After the outdoor festivities, parishioners were invited inside to warm up with hot cocoa and cookies.
The idea was to get people together, the pastor said.
“In order to have a parish, you need to have a community,” he said. “In order to have a community, you need to bring people together.”
The plan “worked beyond our expectations,” he said.
Among those who attended the event was Patricia Taddeo who brought her three children, ages seven, four and four months.
“They love it!” she exclaimed as she sat at the fair enjoying the presence of her fellow parishioners, knowing her children were in a good environment.
Although she said it was a sacrifice to get the kids to the fair, it was well worth it.
“This is our church and our community,” she said.
“This is very good for our kids because it instills in their heart how they should celebrate Christmas,” said Marylin Goyn. “The kids are having fun.”
We went to give Santa a hug!” her daughter Naomi, six, joyfully exclaimed.
For some, the event was the culmination of a year’s worth of work. The vendors at the fair were all parish volunteers, and they wanted to make sure they had good products to offer their fellow parishioners.
Chloe Varone, along with her family, was at a stand selling hand-crafted knits. She said she was part of a group of women volunteers who got together all year long to create a variety of items to sell during the fair, including hats, scarves, pillow cases and baby items.
Although she has been volunteering at the fair since 2003, Varone said this year was extra festive thanks to the Christmas tree lighting, made all the more significant because of the importance of the tree.
The tree is a living memorial to Msgr. Gerald Langlier, the pastor emeritus who died July 19, said Dian Malm, parish secretary.
“He loved the holidays,” Malm said. “He loved people to be happy, and this is definitely making people happy.”