I was struck very deeply during the liturgy … at all the living vibrant expressions of Christian hospitality, of small loving communities, celebrating now, yes, but even more importantly sharing the brokenness, the alienation, the vulnerability of so many of our brothers and sisters … Jean Vanier [founder of L’Arche] stresses the importance of celebration as a builder of community and vitality. Small celebrations, big celebrations — a very real expression of the joy that should permeate our lives. — Father Raymond McVey, August 1989.
During the days and weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there is customarily a great flurry of activity at Unity Acres, in preparation for our celebration of the holiday. There are packages to be assembled, donations sorted, and gifts wrapped. [Thank–you, Laura, Mark, Anne–Marie, Dan and Will !] The chapel is prepared for Advent and Christmas: the purple and pink Advent Candles are taken out of storage, the manger set up in front of the altar with three Kings and their camels waiting, stage left, for the day of Epiphany. Christmas trees are set up in the sitting room and the dining hall is decorated. Strings of Christmas lights are strung in the windows of the Solarium facing the passing traffic on Route2. On Christmas Eve after dinner, each of our residents is called on by name to receive a package of gifts that have been selected for him from among the gifts receivedduring theweeks and days prior. As each name is called out, the assembled men applaud. Each of the residents receives a large gift bag. On Christmas day, each of the residents also receives a Christmas stocking filled with candy and some more toiletry items. [Thank–you, Sue Heinley!] This seasonal flurry of activity is not limited to our men and our staff. Many individuals and parishes and other groups participate, in one way or another, in our celebrations at Christmas and at other times of the year. How easy it is at times, though, to be distracted from the spirit and purpose of these holidays and celebrations.
“Celebration nourishes us, restores hope, and brings us the strength to live with the suffering and difficulties of everyday life” — Jean Vanier, Community and Growth.
In opening our doors during times of celebration we make our hospitality both visible and real.For our celebrations, to be real, vibrant and ‘builders of community’, we try, haltingly, to cultivate within ourselves a disposition of joy, and of gratitude to, and for, one another, in our brokenness, alienation and vulnerability.
Celebration is important. Celebration builds community.
So we hasten to offer thanks to the many, many friends who sought in one way or another to enhance our celebration of the birth of the Savior. Thank–you for the notes and cardswhich we received in great quantities during the weeks preceding Christmas, each of which expressed care and concern for the needs and well–being of every one at the Acres. Thank–you for the many Christmas gifts, gratefully received from Saint Mary’s in Skaneateles, Saint Stephen’s in Phoenix and from Saint Leo and Saint Ann’s in Holland Patent. Thank–you for generous donations of needed groceries and toiletry items, Saint. Peter’s in Utica, and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Baldwinsville.Thank–you to the Altar and Rosary Society of Christ Our Light in Pulaski and Lacona for their Annual Christmas Party — this has become a long–standing tradition, of perhaps 30 years or more. We enjoyed a dinner of roast beef and roast pork, along with all the trimmings, vegetables, salads, desserts and so on, as well as the company of these generous and thoughtful people.Thank–you to the members of the Mexico United Methodist Church for serving dinner on Christmas Day, as they had done only a few weeks before at Thanksgiving.And so we offer as well, a word of thanks to all of you who receive this newsletter, who think about the needs of the men of Unity Acres, who offer up a prayer for the benefit of the Acres, who send along a donation of clothing, a word of encouragement, or who assist the men in any way, tangibly or intangibly… It is through you that God is providing for us, as He has done for more than 40 years, and we are grateful. We offer thanks to you, and for you. (Thanks and prayers for our benefactors are offered at every Mass celebrated at our Chapel at Unity Acres.)
“Celebration is the specific act of a community as people rejoice and give thanks to the Father”
Celebrations are important. Celebrations build community.
On January 16, 2010, a lovingcommunity of family and friends gathered on the Near Westside of Syracuse, at Saint Lucy’s Church, to rejoice and give thanks, to celebrate Eucharist, and to celebrate Jerry Berrigan’s 90 thBirthday. The celebrant at Mass was Father Al Nortz, brother of our own Sister Monica. Following Mass, the celebration moved across Gifford Street to the Auditorium of Saint Lucy’s School, for a shared meal of salads, bread, pasta and desserts. Peg, Father Jones, Loretta, Lorraine Hoyt, and I traveled south from Oswego County to join Jerry’s family and friends in celebrating Jerry’s life and his unwavering commitment to peaceand justice.Many members of our broader community of supporters, members of the Unity Acres board, were present as well. We celebrate as well Jerry’s stalwart advocacy and friendship toward our little community at the Acres. Ad multos annos!
Celebrations are important. Celebrations build community.
In a few days, we will be marking another milestone. Father Jones will be celebrating his 50th Anniversary of Ordination on the Feast of the Presentation. We are planning a Mass of Thanksgiving, and hope that many members of the extended family of Unity Acres will be able to join us then, as we rejoice and give thanks.