A Christmas of Gratitude

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MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM
FR. KEVIN

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Angels gazing upon the Birth of all births with amazement, joy and gratitude. Amazement that the Word comes into world in the most astounding manner. Joy that Word welcomes delights in all who come from shepherds to the Magi. Gratitude that the Word dwelling among us so loves us that He will die for us.

So let us like the Angels gather in here at Church and in our homes with amazement, joy and gratitude. May our hearts be filled with amazement for Christ Jesus comes to us in the astonishing manner of the Holy Eucharist. Joy that Christ who welcomes us as we are, so we might welcome all that we encounter as they are. Gratitude that Christ Jesus invites us to know His friendship and love for us personally.

Like the Angelic Host I pray that I too might always be astonished in the presence of whomever I encounter. I pray that I too might delight and welcome the visitor and especially those who are sick, lonely, poor or needy. Finally, I pray my gratitude may overflow in the good of one another and in all we encounter. Finally, I pray that St. Paul’s words might be mine:

“I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 4:3-5).

Merry Christmas – so grateful you are here today. Especially grateful for the family and visitors here – we love whenever you visit. Beyond grateful for those members of the parish and school community here week after week – your steadfastness encourages me. Above all I am grateful for our elders, whether homebound or joining us today, for their wisdom, service, unconditional love and their amazement, joy and gratitude in the newborn Child Jesus.

Merry Christmas!
Father Kevin Finnegan, Pastor


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CHRISTMAS CAROL TEXTS

One tradition we can count on throughout the Christmas season is singing traditional carols.

Almost everyone can sing “Silent Night”, “Joy to the World” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” by memory, but when was the last time you actually read the full texts of the carols and concentrated on their meaning?

This Christmastide, I invite you to immerse yourself in the great song texts of Christmas. These inspirational carols are rich with the story of Christ’s birth, but they can also lead us into deeper meditation about our life and our world.

“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”
Are you praying daily for peace? Read the text, which was written in the middle 1800s, as it is as relevant today as it was back then.

“Once in Royal David‘s City”
Are you praying for your children? Read the text, as it traces Christ’s life.

“A Stable Lamp is Lighted”
Are you meditating on the birth of Christ and hissubsequent Passion, Death and Resurrection? Read the text, composed in 1961, which leads us fully into Christ’s reason for coming to this world, for we cannot embrace the cradle if we cannot embrace the cross.

Every carol tells a story. This season let yourself be drawn into these familiar texts in a new way. Sing the carols with renewed insight and thought, enjoy the tradition, and let the songs speak to you!

Shelly Aebi, Director of Liturgy and Choir Director


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ENCOUNTER CHRISTMAS RETREAT

Through Encounter the Middle School Faith Formation Program lead by the Sisters of Pro Ecclesia Sancta at OLG, families have come closer to the Lord. Youth have experienced the love of God during the sessions and big events, as well as their parents during the “United in Christ” parent gatherings.

This has been a great blessing from the Lord to all our community; therefore, we wanted to prepare together as a family for the coming of our Savior on Christmas.

Our Middle School students had a mini-retreat centered in the great mystery of the God’s infinite love and concrete ways to show Him that same love in our lives. Through sharing in games, small groups, teaching and especially during prayer, the youth deepened in the mystery of the Incarnation.

The parents had a super fun movie night with sharing time and snacks in the “United in Christ” parent gathering. Towards the end of the event, they joined their kids in the chapel. In front of the Baby Jesus, the families prayed together, commended their intentions and experienced the joy of receiving Jesus in their hearts.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Sr. Julieta Del Carpio PES, Confirmation Coordinator and Middle School Youth Minister


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CHRISTMAS AT THE CONVENT

It fills our hearts with love as we celebrate with great joy and contemplate God’s coming to the world as a child, sleeping peacefully in the arms of Mary.

We prepare for this time of grace with a silent retreat, meditating on the mystery of the Incarnation. Wedecorate the Sacred Heart of Jesus Convent and make it awelcoming place that speaks of God’s love. Together, we set up the Nativity scene and Christmas tree.

On Christmas Eve we spend an extra time of prayeradoring Jesus in the chapel and singing praise to Him.

As part of our community time we cook and share a special Christmas dinner in thanksgiving for God’sblessings, especially our vocation.

With great excitement and recollection we attend Mass and greet our beloved OLG community!

In the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Merry Christmas!

The Sisters of Pro Ecclesia Sancta


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S.O.S.
SEEING OUR SENIORS

In the classic study dubbed the “Gorilla Experiment”, people are asked to watch a short video with 6 players, 3 in white shirts, 3 in black shirts. Participants are instructed to count the number of basketball passes made by those in white shirts. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

In the middle of the video, a gorilla walks in the middle of the game, thumps his chest and walks off. How many do you think saw the gorilla? Everyone, obviously, right? Actually, about half of the participants never saw the gorilla. How is this even possible? The study flips the adage “Out of sight, out of mind,” on its head; more like “out of mind, out of sight.”

Last year I bought a green Subaru Outback. Suddenly, I was seeing Outbacks everywhere. I couldn’t drive a mile without spotting another Outback. We see what we look for.

Our inherent (and often unconscious) biases might laser focus on one thing and completely miss another that is right in front of us.

That focus, or lack of focus, brings me front and center to our homebound and our sick. “Out of sight, out of mind” plays hard against this group of parishioners. We might notice someone hasn’t been to Mass in a while—but often we don’t pursue it beyond a mild curiosity. Those that have been homebound for a while—for most of us, they are completely off our radar.

Ouch. So much for “when I was sick, you visited me, when I was hungry you fed me.” Those at the margins literally get blurred out of our peripheral vision.

How do we bring our sick and homebound back front and center, back into view? Here are a few ideas:

  • Read a page from the Book of the Sick as you enter the Adoration Chapel. Remember these people especially in your prayers.

  • Volunteer to be a Rosary Prayer Team member and pray a decade of the Rosary for each person on the prayer chain.

  • Bring Communion to our homebound or to those in area hospitals.

  • Reach out and offer to bring a senior to Mass occasionally—so that they might not be out of sight!

  • Pick up the phone, check in with a senior just to say hello.

  • You already pray for our sick all the time? Great, pick up a pen and drop them a note. Let them know they are in your prayers.

  • Next time you make a particularly delicious meal, pack one microwaveable portion for a senior you know and bring them some “food love”.

  • Weather bad? Offer to grocery shop or do a Target run for a senior—or better yet, teach them how to use online ordering to have what they need delivered.

  • Take a book of photos along when you visit. Enlist their expertise. Ask them to tell you their stories. Where are they seeing God in today’s events?

  • Got ideas or want to help? Contact Beryl Schewe at berylschewe@olgparish.org.

Beryl Schewe, Director of Pastoral Care


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SCHOOL ADOPT A FAMILY PROJECT

Each year OLG School students, teachers and classrooms sponsor 29 families and their Christmas wish list through the Sponsor A Family MN program. We are grateful for the many gifts we are given, and this is another way that our hearts can express thanks by helping to provide a Christmas for another family.

The Sponsor A Family MN program has a rich heritage in the Twin Cities area, and has been servicing those in need for over 35 years. It is a program that matches families in need with sponsors who shop for them to provide basic clothing, household goods, toys and food gift cards during the Christmas season. Sponsor A Family works with several Catholic shelters, organizations and schools to secure the families we are sponsoring. OLG School has been sponsoring Christmas wish lists for families through various organizations for more than 20 years.

This year our school helped fulfill the Christmas wishes for 29 families totally 150 people. Collectively our OLG School families sent over $10,000 of goods, ranging from bikes to bed sheets to rice makers to dolls, to be received by families in need many of whom have children at JPII School. These families feel graced with love, hope and prayers from our community to their homes.

Adam Groebner, Director of Advancement


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SANTA’S SECRET SHOP

“We should be shining lamps, giving light to all around us.” Venerable Sr. Catherine McCauley, Founder of the Sisters of Mercy

Over 20 years ago a group of OLG School moms began Santa’s Secret Shop, an outreach fundraiser. Each year for a week in December, part of the OLG campus is transformed into a shopping venue for the school children to buy gifts for their parents and siblings.

The proceeds from the shop were never meant to remain at OLG School but rather meant to extend beyond our community and benefit the education and welfare of children, also the mission of the founding order of our parish school, the Sisters of Mercy. We are still on mission.

Through our now yearly commitment to support our sister school, Saint John Paul II School in Northeast Minneapolis, last year we were able to give $21,000 to JPII School to help fund their playground. This year they will be using the money to help with the cost of separating the 1st and 2nd grades into their own classrooms and outfitting the 1st Grade classroom with essential tools including: new curriculum, Smart Board, learning games and field trip funds.

We are so grateful to the parents and teachers for their work on Santa’s Secret Shop, helping it to be a fun student shopping opportunity and an opportunity for community generosity. They all help OLG serve others as a shining lamp for all around us.


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A GRATEFUL RESPONSE

During the Advent Day of Mercy, penitents had a chance to show their gratitude for God’s mercy in a tangible way. The Men’s Club purchased 1800 snack bags that were filled with nutritious snacks that were delivered to John Paul II to be used as snacks at home during the Christmas holiday. School and faith formation students, as well as people of all ages packed snack bags that included a note reminding recipients that they matter to God.

An important part of the snack bags are the notes which parishioners wrote in English and Spanish to encourage the recipients.

When Tricia, the JPII principal, was told about the snack bags, she was incredibly grateful: “I’ve been praying for more food for the kids and God answered my prayers. This is such a blessing.”

Melissa Miller, Director of Community Life and Social Justice


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CHRISTMAS AT OUR SISTER PARISHES

The Christmas Story at St. Joseph’s in Ghana

The children at our sister parish St. Joseph’s in Mamponteng, Ghana, and the Catholic Youth Organization at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Ankaase, Ghana, prepare for Christmas by enacting plays decpicting scenes from the Christmas story.

In the picture above we see a Mary overcome with emotion as she listens to the angel Gabriel announce that she has been chosen to be the mother of the Savior. Members of the parish sit around the sanctuary and watch as the children bring the Christmas story to life.

Las Posadas at San Max in Honduras

“Noche Buena” or Christmas night is celebrated on December 24, and the feast and fireworks often begin at midnight. Neighbors participate in Posadas where they imitate the Holy Family on that first Christmas as they walk from house to house seeking shelter for the night. At the first houses, the answer is that there is no room at the inn, but finally the group is admitted to a home where they celebrate.

At San Max, like many other Catholic parishes around the world, the children participate in Christmas programs that combine religious stories with music.