Wealth of Celebrations, Charities Highlight Holidays

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Christmas, it seems, comes earlier every year. Area malls have displayed their most festive decorations for weeks and, this year, local radio stations started playing "Jingle Bells" before trick-or-treaters could count their candy from Halloween. At Saint Joseph's University, though, the holidays can never come too early, and departments around campus are rolling out plans to commemorate the season.

On Monday, December 1, at 5 p.m., the Celebration of Lessons and Carols, a traditional Advent worship experience, will be held in the Chapel of St. Joseph-Michael J. Smith, S.J., Memorial. The event will feature the Chapel Choir, University Singers and University Concert Choir. A week later, on Monday, December 8, Mass will be held at 5 p.m., in addition to the daily 12:05 and 10 p.m. liturgies, for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The University's annual tree lighting ceremony, hosted by the Administrative Staff Council (ASC), will be held on Thursday, December 11, at 4:30 p.m., in the Chapel. Christmas carols and refreshments will be part of the festivities.

A candlelight Advent Mass will take place on Sunday, December 14, at 9 p.m., replacing the 8 and 10 p.m. liturgies. A vigil Mass will be held on Christmas Eve at 8 p.m. There is no Christmas Day service.

"It's vital to our identity as a Catholic institution that we provide opportunities for the University community to celebrate the Advent and Christmas season," said Tom Sheibley, director of Campus Ministry. "Also of great importance is the way in which we welcome people of all faith backgrounds to be a part of the celebration. For example, the Advent Lessons and Carols service is part of a series of programs sponsored by the Interfaith Task Force, which this year focuses on music from various religious traditions."

Holiday music will be plentiful around campus this year. The University's student a capella group, 54th and City, will perform on Thursday, December 4, at 7:30 p.m., in Simpson Hall and the University Singers will hold their Winter Concert on Wednesday, December 10, at 7:30 p.m., in the Chapel. In addition, the Office of Multicultural Life will host a celebration featuring the Philadelphia Boys Choir on Wednesday, December 3, at 5 p.m., in the Chapel.

Despite the uncertain economy, charity remains a crucial part of the University's celebration of the holidays. Students from Hawks Against Hunger and the Resident Hawks Association are collecting food items, Delta Sigma Pi are holding a toiletries drive and the Latino Student Association is holding a toy drive. For more information on these efforts, contact hawksagainsthunger@sju.edu, rha@sju.edu, deltasigmapi@sju.edu or lsa@sju.edu, respectively.

The Giving Tree, organized by the ASC, will be set up in the Chapel beginning Sunday, December 7. Ornaments with items from the wish lists of local families in need can be taken from the tree and returned with an unwrapped gift by Wednesday, December 17.

Men's Basketball will celebrate the holidays by shopping for families in the area on Saturday, December 13. The women's basketball team, which donated time in November at the City Team Ministries soup kitchen in Chester, Pa., will return there this month.

Government and Community Relations will collect toys for Philadelphia-area children at the men's basketball game versus Creighton on Saturday, December 6. Tables will be set up at each entrance to the Palestra. New, unwrapped toys and monetary donations will be graciously accepted.

"It is never a surprise to see that our students, faculty and staff embrace the Jesuit ideals of being men and women with and for others," Sheibley said, "but it's especially gratifying during the holiday season. Seeing the way we treat those among us who are less fortunate is better than any gift."

--Jeffrey Martin '04 (M.A. '05)

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