Natchez pastor hopes to welcome community with Christmas outreach

NATCHEZ – Father David O’Connor, pastor of St. Mary Basilica, has announced a program called ‘Walk with us in the Christmas spirit’ for the weeks before and after Christmas. He hopes to encourage parish members, Cathedral school population and community-wide people to consciously seek the Christmas spirit.
“We assume that most people want to experience the spirit of Christmas but we also realize that life for most people gets very busy during the Christmas season,” said Father O’Connor. “By Christmas spirit we mean sharing kindness, peace, joy, encouragement, acceptance and hospitality. In addition, to a wide range of programs in our congregation that proclaim the Christmas spirit, we also ask church members to select personal ways of sharing the Christmas spirit within the congregation and with everyone they meet,” he added.

NATCHEZ – A nativity scene from the Basilica of St. Mary from 2016. The parish is launching an effort to promote Christmas spirit. (Photos by Vickie Stirek)

The December calendar at St. Mary includes a wide variety of programs: the weekly Wednesday dinners at the Family Life Center, the Alcorn choir performance on December 3, Lessons and Carols on December 10, the celebrations of feasts of St. Nicholas (December 6), St. Lucy (December 7), the Virgin of Guadalupe (December 12), and the Virgin Mary (December 8). Additional social events include Breakfast with Santa (December 2) and an open house at the Family Life Center on December 23.
“Most church programs are directed by a parish commission or the pastoral council, but this program is different. Its effectiveness will depend on every child, youth, adult and family,” said Donna Martello, program coordinator at St. Mary. “We are asking that each of these select personal ways of extending kindness, love and joy to one another and to everyone they meet. This can take many forms such as sending personal greeting and prayer cards to a number of people, giving home baked cookies, a home visit to people in the neighborhood, phone calls to individuals, or an email greeting,” she explained.
Pat Tumminello, chair of the Liturgy Commission, said they want to counter the commercialism of the season. “We are encouraging a focus on spiritual activities such as praying for/with individuals, prayer visits to St. Mary, praying the traditional noon-time prayer of the church called the Angelus, using the ‘Blue Book’ thought-for-the-day guide, use of the Advent wreath at home, a brief prayer every time a person drives by St. Mary, seeking forgiveness and forgiving others, including the church and its clergy,” Tumminello said.
“This program is designed to encourage the efforts of all Christian people to keep Christ in Christmas. We as Catholics do not want to give the impression that we have a monopoly on this. We are inviting our friends and neighbors join with us to share the spirit of Christmas,” explained Father O’Connor. “We are using name tags, yard signs, posters, banners and social media to highlight the call to walk with us in the Christmas spirit.”
For a full listing of activities and suggestions, contact St. Mary parish office at (601) 445-5616.

(Submitted by Regina Mardis on behalf of Father David O’Connor.)