Dec 12, 2013

Special Advent service celebrates hope, honors Sandy Hook victims



Story and photos by David Martin

EAST LONGMEADOW – Parishioners at St. Michael Church in East Longmeadow wanted to offer a feeling of community, spread hope and goodwill to others and focus on the true meaning of Christmas during this Advent season.

They accomplished this by holding an evening Advent service on Dec. 11. Attended by nearly 75 people, the service was led by Sisters of St. Joseph Mary McGeer and Betty Broughan. It began with the lighting of an Advent wreath on the altar.

Cathy Basdekis is a member of the Spiritual Life Committee at St. Michael’s Church which is under the direction of pastor, Father James J. Scahill. Basdekis said she felt the spirit being offered was that “Advent is the season of the light in the midst of all the darkness, not just in the season, but all the darkness in the world.

“Advent is the time of light, of hope, of belief and of remembrance – tonight especially,” said Basdekis.

As the third Advent candle was lit, Sister Broughan said it was to remember Newtown, Conn., and all places in the world that are suffering from loss and violence, and to ask for the “light of healing to break through.”

A liturgical “Dance of Hope” was then performed by parishioner Mackenzie LaFond.

Michelle Hicks, also a member of the St. Michael Spirtual Life Committee, noted that all people have talents that they can give back to the community, such as this young woman performing the interpretive dance.

But the victims of the violence at the Sandy Hook Elementary School “were a big loss to everyone because their talents, what was good about them and what they were going to bring to the world, was cut short,” said Hicks.

Hicks said with the one-year anniversary of the Newtown shootings coming up this Saturday, the families of the victims have asked everyone to go out and do some act of kindness. The Spiritual Life Committee thought that the Advent service was “the perfect way to reach out and do something good,” she said.

“Just to refresh people’s memories, so that maybe they will step out of the church this week and go with that in mind and do something positive,” said Hicks.

Later, a grandfather and his granddaughter acted out a narration of the famous, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” editorial reply written by Francis Church in the New York Sun, Sept. 21, 1897.

Basdekis said that even though this is the season of Advent, leading into the season of Christmas, for many people there is a separation between the two and she believes there really should not be. She said the spirit of Christmas means “believing that God has come and will be coming again.”

“Along with that belief is the belief that a lot of people have regarding Santa Claus and I think Santa Claus can be a way of just showing that sort of belief,” said Basdekis.