Each year the beginning of December brings the Advent Season to St. Mary’s High School. In the two weeks leading up to finals that will be taken before Christmas break, special activities help the St. Mary’s community to focus on what the season really means.
The calendar kicked off this year on Monday, Dec. 3, with a mass performed by Bishop Hanifen, and continued Tuesday, Dec. 4 with a Campus Ministry Prayer Service.
Michael Dillon, chair of the SMHS theology department, has been at St. Mary’s for 13 years and said the Advent activities have been done every year that he remembers. The original intent of Advent Calendar week, Dillon said, was to have Mass every day, if possible.
“The Advent Calendar activities provide a refuge from the commercialization of Christmas, and allow us to focus our hearts on Christ,” Dillon said. “In the hectic reality of the holidays and the end of the semester, it is nice to have some moments of peace and meaningful reflection to slow you down and focus you in a positive way. As cheesy as it sounds, it reminds you of the reason for the season, and gives you a way to live out your faith in a meaningful way.”
While there are some events that happen each year, others change from year to year. The week always includes several Masses, prayer services held by the Campus Ministry group, and some time of fun and fellowship, Dillon said. Last year the Feast of the Immaculate Conception fell during Advent Calendar week and was celebrated at Grandparents Mass, but this year it did not. Dillon said they don’t have specific days for the Masses; dates are assigned based on the availability of the priests.
As traditions are celebrated year after year, they take on special significance to those involved. Dillon said to him each activity is special but he especially enjoys the fellowship of the burrito breakfast.
“A bunch of us get here around 5 a.m. to start cooking, and it’s just a fun and yummy way to end the semester,” Dillon said. “The same basic cooks show up each year, and it reminds me why I love to work here at St. Mary’s.”
For many students the annual Grandparents Mass holds special significance. This year’s Grandparents Mass will be on Thursday, Dec. 6, celebrating the Feast of St. Nicholas.
Miles Keane, who attended Grandparents Mass last year as a sophomore with his grandparents, Tom and Peggy Keane, felt the event provides time with loved ones that students might not get otherwise.
“With everything going on at school and with sports, you don’t get to spend a lot of time with your grandparents or sometimes even your parents,” Miles said at last year’s event. “So celebrating this Mass with them is cool.”
Other events during the two-week Advent Calendar include a faculty mass, Mass and Adoration, a second Campus Ministry Prayer Service, a Mass celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe, and a Christmas meditation.
The Calendar wraps up with the annual Burrito Breakfast and the singing of Christmas carols on Friday, Dec. 14.
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
Below, Miles Keane attended the 2011 Grandparents Mass with his grandparents, Tom and Peggy Keane.