Families find safe ways to celebrate Advent

Friday, Nov. 27, 2020
Families find safe ways to celebrate Advent + Enlarge
By Linda Petersen
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY — Like most other religious celebrations across the world, Advent will look very different this year in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, due to the coronavirus. While the Cathedral of the Madeleine and the other parishes will celebrate the most important liturgical celebrations, they will do so on a very limited scale and many associated events have been cancelled because of the pandemic. 
The cathedral provides a full schedule of events and opportunities for prayer on its Facebook page.
Parents who in the past have relied on religious education classes at their parishes to help teach their children about the importance of Advent now are largely managing on their own. This is particularly true of those whose children don’t attend Utah Catholic Schools.
“The efforts of families are heroic,” diocesan Director of Faith Formation Susan Northway said. “Many parents have not actively taught religious education to their children in their home [before] – they have certainly provided wonderful examples to their children – but this year, they are not only helping their children learn the faith but they are putting the faith into action through things like their charitable efforts.”
Several national Catholic publishers have stepped up to help, providing free resources to parents, Northway said.
“I think it is so commendable – the work they’re doing,” she said. “It shows how much they believe in their mission to publish and to give us very good faith formation materials.”
Loyola Press has almost 100 pages on its website with Advent crafts, activities, prayers, stories and lesson plans that can easily be adapted for family use at https://www.loyolapress.com/catholic-resources/liturgical-year/advent/. 
RCL Benzinger has activities and ideas at https://rclbenziger.com/celebrating-advent.
Sadlier Corp. offers an Advent calendar with suggested daily activities and an activity for Light coming into the world at https://www.sadlier.com/religion/advent-resources. They also provide easily adapted lesson plans for celebration of five winter holidays, including St. Lucia Day and St. Nicholas Day, https://www.sadlier.com/school/ela-blog/winter-holidays-around-the-world-lesson-plans. 
For older youth and adults, Our Sunday Visitor is offering a free online 10-week Advent Bible study, “Oriens: A Pilgrimage through Advent and Christmas 2020” with Fr. Joel Sember beginning Nov. 30 at https://www.osv.com/event/oriens-a-pilgrimage-through-advent-and-christmas-bible-study-week-1/. (Book purchase may be necessary).
Additional resources may be found on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website at https://catholiccurrent.org/resources-for-advent/?fbclid=IwAR1oFsZNCk1HPPwclECdawqbvYVQvmgE266lZwU_6IGfTZAioNDgznJKjTY.
Service is an important aspect of the Advent season, and many families are finding new ways to help those less fortunate than themselves this year. At St. George Parish, for example, parishioners are being encouraged by pastor Father David Bittmenn to donate gift cards instead of food for the traditional Thanksgiving food baskets and instead of Giving Tree gifts.
The ladies of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women at St. Thomas More are sponsoring the Twisted 12 Days of Christmas, so named because the activity is taking place Dec. 14-25, a twist on the tradition of celebrating the 12 days beginning on Christmas Day. Most of these activities cost little or no money and can be done safely from home or socially distanced, DCCW activities committee chair Annette Pressley said. They can also easily be completed by individuals and families (See sidebar).
“I really want to encourage people that Advent is a time of waiting; it’s a time of hope,” Northway said. “This [pandemic] will not last forever; we’re doing the best we can, all of us, and we need to support each other.”

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