Mary Jacobs and her daughter Alexandria work on an Advent wreath Nov. 26 in Father Brennan Hall, St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville. Dorothy K. LaMantia photos

Mary Jacobs and her daughter Alexandria work on an Advent wreath Nov. 26 in Father Brennan Hall, St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville. Dorothy K. LaMantia photos

By Dorothy K. LaMantia | Correspondent

While many rushed headlong into the Christmas season Nov. 26 by shopping or decorating their front yards, 25 families in St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, prepared for the season of Advent while crafting their very own family Advent wreath.

The event was envisioned by Father Stanley Lukaszewski, pastor, “to bring families together and keep them closer to their faith, their church and each other while focusing on the meaning of Advent and the greater meaning of Christmas as a sign of God’s love for His people.”

Under the direction of pastoral associate Linda Damiano, the parish’s stewardship team, including Lisa and Kevin McMahon, Ruth Kostick and Kathy Hoffmann, sponsored the workshop, which was the first of its kind in St. Barnabas and free of charge.

For some, the day afforded an opportunity to spend quiet time with family and parish friends while developing or deepening their understanding of the spiritual meaning of preparing for Christmas.

In Father Brennan Hall, parents and children sat at tables protected with sheets of newspaper and furnished with glue, scissors and other tools to support the creative process for hands large and small.   

The program opened with prayer and the reading of the history of the Advent wreath by Kevin McMahon, who explained that the tradition – the lighting of four candles, three purple and one pink, symbolizing the four Sundays of Advent – originated in Germany during the Middle Ages.

The presentation, whether it served as a review or new lesson for the audience, taught the meaning of symbols – the circle of evergreen representing endless life in Christ; the candles, the light of Christ overcoming darkness – and provided how-to instruction, including a take-home packet for families to practice the tradition at home.

Each family received a 12-inch wreath, handmade by the committee, and four candles.  They were able to choose from a number of ornaments – poinsettias, bows, balls, berries, flowers – to decorate the wreath and make it their own. 

The hall was full of creative energy with every family member engaged, as parents took on the job of twisting metal wires to fix a poinsettia to an evergreen bough while the kids waited patiently to do the gluing or setting up the candles.

After crafters put on their finishing touches, they revealed why they came.

Said Mary Devitt, “I made an Advent wreath 15 years ago in my former parish, and it was showing its age. When I heard St. Barnabas was having this wreath-making, I wanted to make a new one, because it gets me started in the spirit of Christmas, lighting a candle each week as we get closer to Christmas.”

For her friend and tablemate Celeste Podesta, the afternoon provided a new lesson on her faith, which she was eager and excited to learn. “I never read the Bible and didn’t know much about my faith until I started in St. Barnabas’ Bible study.  Now I am happier because of it, and I want to get closer to my faith and God.  I wanted to be here today because this church is a community of giving and belonging.”

Marie Babich credits the parish’s family catechesis program with drawing her and her daughter, Hailey, to attend. 

“I came to be with other parents in the group but also to share time with my daughter to show her the true meaning of Christmas and how much more there is to it than just what the world shows,” she said.

“I am so glad they offered this event,” said Mary Jacobs, who attended with husband, John, and daughter, Alexandria.  “We have learned what Advent means, and now it will be special when we see the candles lit at Mass on Sunday, and then do it at home.”