By Dorothy K. LaMantia | Correspondent
For Molly Aiello, the lights on the parish Christmas tree are more than lovely decorations. They are glowing memories of loved ones, being honored and remembered as part of an extended parish family. “Every time I drive past the church with the lights on,” said Aiello, “I think of all those people. They are still part of the celebration. It gives me a warm heart to remember loved ones in a special way, and it is a special memory for everyone who put a light on the tree.”
Now, once again in the season of Advent, and with Christmas quickly approaching, Aiello and her friend and collaborator, Freda O’Doherty, frequently hear fellow parishioners of St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, say, “We hope you’re doing the Memory Tree this year.” Four years ago, the pair, who often collaborated and co-chaired parish social events, introduced “Light Up a Memory,” and a Christmas tradition was born.
This year, as in the previous three, parishioners will gather at the tree-lighting ceremony after the 5 p.m. Mass on Dec. 17. St. Mary Parish choir will sing while the glowing lights usher in Christmas—and honor and remember the loved ones of all in attendance. A reception with refreshments will follow the ceremony in the parish center.
Last year, nearly 600 parishioners participated in what O’Doherty calls “a very emotional night, which has been popular since we started it.” It is estimated that the number of lights on the tree usually runs between 1200 and 1400. The tree remains lit every evening until Jan. 6.
In early autumn, an invitation is sent to all parishioners encouraging them to remember their loved ones with a light on the parish Christmas tree. All the names of those honored are inscribed in the “Light Up A Memory” book, which is displayed in the parish gathering space throughout the Christmas season. Participants are asked to make a $10 contribution which defrays the cost of the program.
“The families receive a gift of memory, which is comforting to someone who lost a spouse during the year or to a sick person who needs prayer.” [[In-content Ad]]