This is a busy and exciting time of the year in a parish, as you well know from your own home parish. So much of our attention is focused on preparing for Christmas. The Advent focus on Jesus’ return in glory quickly gives way to preparing to commemorate His first coming on that Christmas morn. Advent is one of my favorite liturgical seasons in which to preach, with that dual focus on the first and second comings of the Lord.
Here at Holy Cross Parish, we recently held a Marian evening of prayer celebrating “Mary, Mother of Life,” sponsored by our parish Respect Life Committee and our Worship and Spirituality Commission. The service was led by Anne DiSanto, a parishioner who is a popular composer and performer of contemporary Christian music, and a member of our parish Respect Life Committee.
Each year at this time the diocese holds a vespers prayer service in which the Marian Award is given to a member of each parish in recognition of their outstanding service. This year we honored one of the most energetic and active members of Holy Cross Parish who is in attendance at just about every parish activity, and has probably assisted in one way or another with its planning or execution.
One of the highlights of the Advent season is our parish giving tree, through which parishioners donate hundreds of gifts for those in need. Along with families who contact us directly for assistance, we support a few local agencies that let us know of the needs of their residents or clients. Parishioners also have the option of donating toward our sister parish, Lord of Hope in Canto Grande, Lima, Peru, sponsored by the District of Peru of the U.S. Province of Holy Cross. We typically collect close to $2,000 in support of the parish.
Just last evening we had the annual transfer of the collected gifts from the church vestibule to the church hall. After the 5:30 p.m. Teen Mass, a large number of volunteers lined up from the vestibule down the stairs to the hall, passing each gift to its final destination on the appropriate table. It’s actually quite an exhilarating site to see so many gifts passed hand to hand all the way from the church to the hall, knowing that they will eventually end up in the hands of those in need this Christmas.
But right now we are still celebrating the season of Advent. As one who doesn’t like anticipating Christmas more than is necessary, my prayer at this time is that of the ancient Christians: “Maranatha!” Come, Lord Jesus!
Fr. Jim Fenstermaker, C.S.C., is Pastor of Holy Cross Parish in South Easton, Mass. He is a monthly contributor to the Spes Unica Blog, reflecting on the work of Holy Cross in parish ministry. Learn more about the work of Holy Cross priests and brothers in parochial ministry as we seek to bring hope to the Church and world.