While Christmas seems to have sneaked up on us this year, it did make its presence felt in the waning days preceding the holiday.
The diocese really got into the spirit of things when it erected a Nativity scene and lit a Christmas tree in Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza. The project began when Father Michael Perry, pastor of Our Lady of Refuge parish, Flatbush, looked around and saw lots of seasonal preparations but little with religious symbolism. His first idea was to place a manger scene in Prospect Park which is not far from his church.
Father Perry’s idea made its way to DeSales Media Group, our parent company, and it was agreed that Grand Army Plaza on the northern entrance to the park would be a very desirable venue because of its great visibility.
Negotiations had to be held with the NYC Parks Dept. and the police. After a little back-and-forth, it was decided that Wednesday, Dec. 16, would be the grand lighting ceremony and unveiling of the Christmas stable. (See photos on Page 6.)
DeSales’ production director reached out to his contacts and before you knew it, a tree had been erected and the figures bought for a homemade creche.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was on hand to bless the setting. Father Perry beamed with pride as he served as emcee. The kids from the religious education program at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish, Windsor Terrace, led the singing of Christmas carols while their pastor, Father Ilyas Gill, and pastoral associate, Sister Mary Ann Ambrose, C.S.J., looked on.
A few days later, the staff from DeSales Media participated in its annual day of service. After celebrating Mass at St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral, we packed some bags with socks, scarves, hats and toiletries that we had donated and made our way to several social service centers around the diocese.
The crew that I accompanied visited Reaching-Out Community Services on New Utrecht Ave. in Bensonhurst to deliver our goodie bags and to help Tom Neve, its director, get ready for his big Christmas party for the kids the following day at St. Mary Mother of Jesus.
Reaching-Out is also a recipient of Bright Christmas funds that we have been collecting for the past four weeks. So far, our readers have donated more than $110,000, all of which has been distributed to assist pastors, sisters, diocesan agencies directors who have requested help to brighten Christmas for those in their ministries.
Even though the Bright Christmas Campaign formally comes to a halt on Christmas Day, we will continue to collect the monies that we receive to help with Epiphany parties, most popular in the Hispanic communities.
So despite the welcomed unseasonal temperatures, it was finally beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and we have been getting into the Christmas spirit.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to Bright Christmas. You helped make Christmas a little brighter for a lot of children in Brooklyn and Queens. I know because I have been receiving the thank-you notes which I will share with you when we return after the Christmas break.
There will be no Tablet delivered next week in keeping with our 50-issues a year policy. Our next regularly scheduled edition will be dated Jan. 9.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!