What Being an Usher/Greeter Means to Me – Joan Schulte

Shortly after coming to St. Andrew Church five years ago, I decided to become an usher/greeter at Sunday Mass. I thought it would help me feel more a part of the parish community and help me meet my fellow Sunday worshipers. It did all that and more. I really enjoy seeing all the familiar faces every week and making everyone feel welcome with a friendly greeting and a smile. I think all of us in the usher/greeter ministry try to help promote our parish slogan. “The doors of Saint Andrew open wide at the very thought of your coming.”

Joan Schulte
I hope some of you will consider joining our ministry. It doesn’t take much of your time and it rewards you with a stronger sense of belonging to our parish community.

Joan Schulte

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

            (This year on the Liturgical Calendar the Fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve.  It is a compressed week.)

Last year in 2016 at this time, I was a mess.

My husband and I were running around, trying to find presents for all of our friends and family, baking cookies for the neighbors, visiting with everyone coming back to Cincinnati for the holidays, watching every Christmas movie under the sun, to make it all absolutely perfect…all while I was 3 months pregnant, exhausted and desperate for Frisch’s onion rings.

It was a weird time.

The excitement of the pregnancy made the holiday celebrations even more meaningful than usual as people expressed their joy at the soon-to-be arrival of our little one. But at the same time, my drive to make Christmas “perfect” as I had strived to do for years, made it all that much more difficult. I remember feeling paralyzed as we unearthed the Christmas decorations (multiple mounds of them), and feeling like it was just too much to try and put it all up. But I felt like I had to as I thought, “It just wouldn’t be Christmas without XYZ decoration!” And so we did all of the things that would make the season “wonderful” – wrapped all of our presents perfectly, provided the perfect side dishes for all of our family gatherings, created the most perfect card to send out, and put every ornament in a perfect place on the tree. And by January 1, we were drained.

Fast forward to 2017.

Our baby girl is now 6-months old, exploring her world and growing by leaps and bounds each day. It’s an exciting time with LOTS of firsts! But I have to say one of the most surprising things for me as a new mom is that Christmas has felt “different” this year, and not necessarily in the sense I expected. What I EXPECTED was that I would create the “perfect” Christmas for her, she would stare at our Christmas tree ornaments with wide eyes and a smile, be fascinated with a big man in a bright red suit and play with wrapping paper next to me as I meticulously covered each edge and corner of a gift. It would be like a storybook. What I GOT instead was this overwhelming feeling to protect her from the overabundance of it all.

My husband and I both agreed to take a break from putting up our boxes upon boxes of decorations, we put up our tree with a few of our favorite ornaments, displayed our manger scene and decided to make most of our gifts instead of urgently shopping around for presents. Now don’t get me wrong, part of our reasons for making these decisions included sleep deprivation, a tighter budget and unpredictable diaper changes, but let me tell you – finally – the Christmas season feels GOOD. By not emphasizing all the other “stuff” that we typically do, we have found ourselves more immersed in the celebration of Advent not only at mass each week, but also at home. We’re actually taking the time to read our little blue book, use our Advent calendar and are specifically setting aside time for ourselves to spend quality time together as a family. It has inspired us to really embrace the beauty of preparation, the hope it inspires and the ultimate destiny it fulfills – Jesus’ birth, of course, but also our entrance into heaven one day.

While some people would certainly say that the deep joy we are experiencing this season is due to having a new baby – and yes, certainly, there is a lot of joy in that! – I would venture to say that the deep joy we are experiencing is due to taking the time to really reflect on and enjoy what this season is all about with our new baby. It has made me realize that we don’t need all of the stuff to make Advent and Christmas wonderful. We just need each other, our love for one another and the opportunity to spread glad tidings of great joy to the family, friends and community around us.

My husband and I have both decided to continue with our “toned down” Christmas in future years. As it is our job as parents to prepare our daughter, and any other future siblings she may have, the importance of being selfless, giving and loving others, we feel it starts here. What an opportunity to show our daughter and our future children the difference between God’s love and the false allure of the materials of this world. Jesus was born amongst livestock and wrapped in some rags. Why would I ever think that Christmas should be about all the “stuff?” Because truth bomb: all of that stuff doesn’t make us happy. The presents. The cookies. The decorations. The cards. Trying to perfect all of it only made the season miserable, exhausting and overwhelming to me, yet year after year I would do it again. And the one year we decided not to? Well. . .

It’s been a most blessed season.

The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of God shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.  The angel said, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’

And suddenly there was a great multitude of the heavenly host with an angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.  Lk 2: 9-14

Mandy Geyman and Lucy Mandy and Lucy

 

First Sunday of Advent

“What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” Mk. 13:37

 This time of the year we are likely to be making lists and checking them twice.  There is much to do in the next few weeks.  From shopping for presents and wrapping them, writing cards to people we long to stay in touch with, decorating the house inside and out, baking, planning menus, sending invitations, planning parties and perhaps even arranging trips to visit family and friends out of town. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the season.

As St. Mark reminds us in his gospel on the first Sunday or Advent is, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”  In other words, don’t lose sight of the true meaning of this season.  I know you may be thinking, yet one more thing to worry about.  But, if it wasn’t for the birth of Jesus, there would be no Christmas; no parties, no cards, no trips to be with family, and most importantly, no Savior.

So when you and your family make ready for this holiday, focus on the true meaning and prepare your hearts to receive our Savior.  Go to Mass, Reconciliation and light your Advent Wreath each week. Pray each day and reflect on your prayers.  Watch, wait and prepare.  He will be here before you know it.  Will you be ready?

Dear Lord, do not let me lose the meaning of this season in the busyness of the holidays.  Let me focus my time, energy and talents where it matters, on the birth of your Son.  

single candle                 Cathy O’Toole

Woman, This is Your Son . . . This is Your Mother

When Jesus therefore had seen His Mother and the disciple standing whom He loved, He said to His Mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, He said to the disciple: Behold thy Mother. John 19: 26-27

 There she stood, His Mother, at the foot of the Cross, gazing at her Son.  She stood, not falling, not filled with self-pity.  She was strong for Him, and comforted Him as only a Mother can in those final hours.  The agony they shared was as indescribable as the love they had for each other.  Beside Mary was John, the disciple whom He loved.  John too was gazing at Jesus.  As Jesus hung from the Cross, John’s love for Jesus was so great and intense, that he could not have loved Jesus any more than he did at that moment.

Then, Jesus looked at Mary, and turned her gaze from Himself to John and said, “Behold thy son.”

Likewise, Jesus looked at John and turned John’s gaze from Himself to Mary and said, “Behold thy Mother.”  It was His final gift from the Cross, his most valuable possession – His Mother.  He was entrusting her to His Beloved Disciple, to His Mystical Body, that she might raise her spiritual children as she had raised Him.

As John took her into his home, he received the tender love, compassion and instruction of the Blessed Mother.  She formed him into “another Christ” and John’s love for Jesus grew even greater.  The same can be true for each of us.  For these words of Jesus from the Cross are not only about Mary and John, but about Mary and each one of us. When we take Mary into our “home” and allow her to be our spiritual Mother, she will help us to imitate Christ and love Him far more than we could without her help.

This Lent, allow yourself to receive Christ’s gift of His Mother as He speaks the third word from the Cross. Go to her often, in all your needs, and allow her to “mother” you as she did her own Son.  She will lead you to experience a love for Jesus that is so great and profound, it will change your life forever.

                                                                                                    JoAnne Lacey     JoAnne Lacey

Joy to the World

I love bringing joy to people and especially at this time of the year!  I have been known to stand on State Route 131 on Christmas Eve afternoon, as families are driving to their destinations (I spot many headed to St. Andrew for Christmas Eve afternoon Masses) and wave to those driving by.

This year I plan to wave to the students driving to Milford High School the last morning before their Christmas break. Yes, I wear this Christmas Tree Costume or another favorite – the snowman. You can’t believe how many drivers honk their horn and wave back at me. A wonderful and truly inexpensive way to spread Christmas cheer – and it’s low calorie!

 Chris Lemmon is an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at St. Andrew and has a wonderful sense of adventure!

Anticipation of the Birth of Jesus

We always begin the Advent season with a tradition that is very special to our family. Our Advent season does not begin until we have put up our Nativity Scene which has been passed down through the generations of the Hoffman Family. You see, we are blessed to own a family heirloom that has been in our family for 83 years. My grandmother made it with her dad when she was only 10 years old.

wendys-picture

The stable is made from the cottonwood tree that was in their front yard. The mat for the bottom of the stable was sewn together on a pedal sewing machine by her mother. The original light that shines down on the empty manger was a tail light from their family car. The original figurines still have their price of $.26 stamped on the bottom of their feet. All original! My grandmother inherited the nativity scene when her mother died in 1979. Our family has enjoyed the tradition since 2006 when it was passed down to us.

And of course, we all anticipate Christmas morning when Baby Jesus is placed in the manger.

The Caton Family wishes everyone a very blessed Christmas

The Family Tree

Growing up I never had the pleasure of having a real, live Christmas tree. The first year we were married, Jon and I went and picked out a real one. We have been getting a live tree every year and plan to cut down one this year at a farm!

I know that a Christmas tree can mean so many things to different people but for jenn-soellner-christmas-treeme it symbolizes one thing: family. Just as the ancient Tree of Jesse bore a new Adam, our family tree bridges the old with the new. The fresh, aromatic, evergreen tree that we pick out every year is adorned with the past – heirloom ornaments and treasures made by little hands. Your Christmas memories come back to life to blend with new ones. The bittersweet pang of remembering long ago holidays with departed loved ones intermingle with the anticipation and hopes for the Christmas seasons to come. Have a blessed Christmas with your family creating beautiful memories and enjoying remembrances of Christmas past.

Ever changing, ever timeless. Evergreen.

Jennifer Soellner is a Cantor in the St. Andrew Choir and the wife of Jon Soellner, St. Andrew Businessjen-soellner Manager.