Dear Parishioners and Friends,
As we approach the conclusion of the Christmas season with the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, my heart is filled with gratitude and joy for the many ways in which our parish celebrated the mystery of the Incarnation – the Word made flesh who came to dwell among us.
Beginning on the First Sunday of Advent, many of you came to the Franciscan Center to make Advent wreaths for your homes with materials supplied by our 7th and 8th Grade religious education students and their teacher, Michelle White. I also want to thank the children who painted the stars for our 12-foot parish Christmas tree!
I am grateful to those who coordinated and delivered Remembrance Bread from the Women of Hope Ministry, as well as our Synod Team Members for an Advent Evening of Reflection.
Our annual Giving Trees provided parishioners with opportunities to purchase gifts for Hartford residents, and to make contributions to assist our brothers and sisters of Ste.-Geneviève Parish in Haiti. I am grateful to Frances D’Amico, Patty Wawzyniecki and Richard Kiesel for their efforts to make the Giving Trees so successful.
As we moved through the following Sundays of Advent, the anticipation grew as preparations were made for Christmas and its liturgies. Many of you attended the “Journey to Bethlehem” service of lessons and carols. Like you, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the music performed by our combined choirs and instrumentalists, and especially by our Church Street Singers made up of the children of our parish. Gabriel Löfvall and the entire music ministry deserve our deepest thanks and congratulations. Once again, I express my deep gratitude to Dr. Charles Callahan for his beautiful choral work, “A Christmas Antiphon,” written especially for our parish.
During the weeks leading up to Christmas, our church was beautifully decorated by a team of dedicated and hard-working individuals. I am most grateful to John, Dominic, Paul, Valerie and Joan for contributing their time and talents to make the church such an inviting and dignified place of worship for the Christmas season.
The celebration of Christmas got off to a rousing start with the 4:00 and 5:30 PM Vigil Masses. There hadn’t been so many people in the church since before the pandemic started! I would like to thank our resident choreographer, Mary Beth Griffith, and the 46 liturgical dancers who performed so beautifully at the 4:00 Mass. The Church Street Singers under the direction of Julia Atwood sang at the 5:30 Mass. I am grateful to Barbara Hennessey, a volunteer parent assistant, as well as all the parents and singers who attended rehearsals.
I wish to thank the Lectors (both adult and youth), Eucharistic Ministers, Sacristans and Ministers of Hospitality who took part in all the liturgies.
This parish is anchored by the dedication and hard work of our Friars and Lay staff. I am so grateful to be their colleague in our ministry to, and with you. Each of them brings their unique gifts and talents to help us in our mission to serve you. Those who volunteer in the parish office are also vital to our mission, and I am deeply grateful to each of them for giving us their valuable time week in and week out.
Finally, I am grateful for the many comments and messages I’ve received from you during the past several weeks. I feel very encouraged by your support, and I am very happy to know that we helped make your Christmas here such a holy, inspiring and memorable experience. I would also like to thank everyone who made financial contributions to help us close out the year 2022 in a healthier fiscal state.
One of the aspects of the story of the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem is their presentation of gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This is the basis for our practice of Christmas gift-giving. While some people can’t wait to hit the stores on December 26th to exchange, or even return gifts they received a day earlier, we should always remember that a gift is also a symbol of the love or admiration of the giver of the gift. Whether we like the gift or not, we should always be grateful that someone cared enough to give it in the first place.
Popular Christmas songs often commercialize or romanticize the practice of gift giving. After all, Mariah Carey’s popular song, “All I want for Christmas is you” isn’t addressed to Jesus! May we always remember that the first and most important gift at Christmas is Jesus himself. He is the Father’s gift to us, and nothing in this world can ever equal the magnitude of that gift.
One of the verses of the hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem” poignantly says what I’m talking about: “How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”
Blessings on your week ahead!
Fr. Tim Shreenan, O.F.M.Pastor
2 Chances to help others this weekend:
Saturday, January 7 from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm – donate household goods for Ukrainian refugee families in the Diocese of Springfield, MA – read more info here!
Sunday, January 8 from 9:45 am to 12:00 pm – donate pre-packaged snacks to be handed out with sandwiches on a daily basis