‘They remember it forever’ Mother of Sorrows Light Up Night fosters Eucharistic community
By Elisabeth Smith
Since the very first light flickered nearly a decade ago, Ali Bauer and her family have been a part of the Light Up Night tradition at Mother of Sorrows School and Parish, Murrysville.
Bauer and her children, Brynn, Jack and Claire, along with her parents, Terri and Tom Wubben, have watched this special Christmastime event grow tremendously since its start.
Launched in 2016 to help the entire community gather for the holiday, the event features beautiful lights around the school and student-created decorations throughout the building – including doors decorated in themes of the Christ Child.
“It’s a great night full of joy for the Advent season,” Bauer said. “It’s so nice to see the families come together and the school decorated so beautifully.”
This winter, Light Up Night returns on Dec. 2. The event has expanded over the years to become a joint venture between the school and parish. It now includes a living Nativity portrayed by students; an Advent Mass followed by a blessing of the school’s Christmas tree; an intergenerational dinner; caroling; a gingerbread house village; a Santa shop; and a hot chocolate bar and cookies.
Visitors follow luminaria that light the way between each experience.
Light Up Night also now draws a larger crowd due to the combined efforts of the church, which has more than 2,200 parishioners, and the school, which educates more than 400 children each year.
“There’s a lot of unity, which is so nice to see in this day and age,” Bauer said. “It’s something we have continued, and I hope that it continues for many years to come.”
Mother of Sorrows Principal Theresa Szmed said Light Up Night truly creates Eucharistic fellowship.
“This event really brings together the young people of the parish, the parishioners themselves, and the community at large,” Szmed said. “They get to experience the Eucharist with our Mass and fellowship.”
That connection is typically felt by new families who are considering joining the school and parish.
“They get to experience … a connection to Christ himself,” Szmed said. “We call our community the Mother of Sorrows family, and that’s because we do function as a family. Everyone is looking out for each other, keeping each other safe, keeping our children growing in faith.”
Monsignor Michael J. Begolly agrees, noting that the “wonderful gathering” of Light Up Night fosters Eucharistic revival, especially by reclaiming Advent from our culture of commercialism.
“Our Mass is simply the Mass for the second Sunday of Advent. But (our country) already starts advertising Christmas in fall, so at Light Up Night, we really celebrate Advent when we are in the liturgy,” he explained.
“The challenge for us, especially in these years of Eucharistic Revival, is to become a Eucharistic community whereby we bring the presence of Christ to others in all we say and do so that our words and actions are Eucharistic – we build up the community of Christ, we reach out and care for our brothers and sisters.”
That sense of community is evident at Light Up Night not only due to the large participation, but in all the hard work that happens behind the scenes to make this annual event truly special.
Szmed notes that while the students and teachers work hard to bring it to life, there are also dozens of volunteers, custodial staff and others who make the event truly unforgettable.
“Our students and parishioners remember it forever,” she said.