Angelic, charitable traditions continue in parishes
Father Daniel J. Ulishney, pastor of St. Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Export, and St. John Baptist de La Salle Parish, Delmont, gather Giving Tree gifts in December 2019.
Angelic, charitable traditions continue in parishes
BY JERRY ZUFELT
Christmas is a time of traditions, not just for families in their homes but also for parishioners at their parishes.
And, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, two parish traditions focus on children and charity.
Angel Trees, also known as Giving Trees, help connect parishioners with families in need, families who would otherwise not be able to provide Christmas gifts for their children.
A live Nativity brings the children and teens of the parish together with their families and other parishioners to tell the Christmas story: Christ’s birth.
Volunteers Joanne Speranza, right, and Patty Zaccagnini gather Giving Tree gifts in December 2019.
Barbara Zucconi, a volunteer at Catholic Charities and her parish, has coordinated the Angel Tree at St. Anne Parish, Rostraver, since it started in 1998.
“It is needed this year more than ever,” she said, noting how many families have been hurt financially due to restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In October, she received the go-ahead from Father David J. Nazimek, pastor, to conduct the charitable outreach project this year in conjunction with the parishioners of Holy Family Parish, West Newton, where Father Nazimek also serves as pastor.
Zucconi said it will have a different look than in years past in order to comply with diocesan COVID-19 guidelines.
“But our primary goal is the same, to provide gifts to people who would otherwise not have a Christmas gift,” Zucconi said.
The parish Angel Tree has expanded from the 33 individuals who were helped in 1998 to 215-250 individuals who receive Christmas gifts each year.
About 50 recipients of the generosity are Catholic Charities’ clients, others are forwarded by the Belle Vernon Area School District and local foster homes, and some requests are from parishioners, Zucconi said.
“Our parishioners have caring and generous hearts and helpful hands,” she said.
She wants to continue this caring tradition, Zucconi said, because she realizes her family has been blessed while others are struggling.
Another Giving Tree project will be conducted by St. Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and St. John Baptist de La Salle Parish, partner parishes in Export and Delmont, respectively.
“The parishes have always been very generous with their support of the Giving Tree project,” Father Daniel J. Ulishney, pastor, said.
Last year, according to Father Ulishney, the parishes collected and distributed nearly 200 gifts to five different entities: Westmoreland County Children’s Bureau, Seton Hill Child Services, Greensburg-Salem Metzger School, Franklin Regional Heritage School, and The Ark Manor, a local nursing home.
“We figured there would be more of a need this year,” said Patty Zaccagnini, who helps coordinate the project with Cindy Woods.
The parish is using Facebook, its web page and bulletin and Flocknotes to distribute information about the project to parishioners.
Jorden Lundberg and daughter Mila are Mary and Jesus in St. Joseph Parish’s “Epiphany Experience” in New Kensington in 2019.
Many parishes host a live Nativity to connect children with the bigger family of the parish.
Our Lady of Grace Parish, Greensburg, started a youth-themed event in the late 1990s. The event then became part of an intergenerational catechetical program, according to Katrina Coleman, director of discipleship and evangelization and youth ministry. In recent years, it has been part of the parish Christmas Market, which highlights the many multicultural traditions of families at the parish.
Coleman said staff realized that many children might not know the entire Nativity story, especially if they don’t attend Mass on the Epiphany.
“The live Nativity is a way to engage a broader group of people, especially at a time of year when people want to be with family,” she said.
While Our Lady of Grace Parish will not hold its live Nativity this year, the four parishes in Uniontown are sponsoring their first.
“It’s a project we have wanted to do for a while,” said Theresa Mazur, youth minister for the parishes: St. John the Evangelist, St. Joseph, St. Mary (Nativity) and St. Therese, Little Flower of Jesus.
The youth group, made up of more than 50 students from grades 8-12, will present the live Nativity in a drive-through format Dec. 27 (the observance of the Feast of the Holy Family). The time is still to be determined.
The event is already helping the parish connect with people who have not been able to attend Mass in person as they are participating by making parts of the scenery or sewing outfits for the young people, Mazur said.
People visiting the event will drive down the long driveway at St. Joseph Parish, which will be lined
with luminaries, and through the parking lot to where the students will present the Nativity scene. Other students will collect food for the St. Vincent de Paul Society to distribute to people in need.
“The church is providing something that the young people want and need at this time,” Mazur said. “As our youth ministry continues to grow, this event gives them a way to share their talents and faith with the community.”
CRABTREE: St. Bartholomew Parish, Giving Tree
DELMONT/EXPORT: St. John Baptist de La Salle and St. Mary Parishes: Giving Tree
HARRISON CITY: St. Barbara Parish, live Nativity, Dec. 4, 6-7 p.m.
ROSTRAVER: St. Anne Parish, Angel Tree
St. Sylvester, St. Ambrose and St. Matthew Parishes, Angel Tree
UNIONTOWN: The Roman Catholic Churches of Uniontown,
live Nativity at St. Joseph Parish from 6-8:30 p.m., Dec. 27
YOUNGWOOD: Holy Cross Parish, ecumenical blessing of Nativity scene at Youngwood Corner Market, 7:30 p.m., Nov. 29; Tree of Hope