Above, Emily Meehan paints a winter theme for Vittoria Russo at St. Patrick’s Parish. Photos by Jean Ko Din

Families mix a blend of party and parish to prepare for Christmas

By 
  • November 30, 2018

As Christmas becomes more and more commercialized, parents like Robin Bredin are looking to the local parish for opportunities to show his children that Jesus is at the core of the celebration. 

“It’s about going beyond the commercial aspect of it,” he said. “Without the aspect of faith, you’re missing the colour, the fourth dimension, the spirituality of life.”

Every year, St. Patrick’s Parish in downtown Toronto hosts a Santa Claus parade after-party to kick off their Advent celebrations. After braving a cold Nov. 18 Sunday morning watching the parade, families were welcomed with hot chocolate and a hotdog. 

“In many ways, the vision for Catholic life is the relationship between the parish, the church and the school and in many ways, the church is that community centre,” said Sarah Miller, the parish’s lay pastoral minister who organized the outreach event. “Parents are considered the primary catechist and so, if we can nurture that relationship to explore religious life as a family, that’s part of our mission.”

The parade after-party is part of a family outreach program that St. Patrick’s hosts once a month. Miller and a group of volunteers set up fun activity stations for both parents and kids. 

There were stations for Advent wreath making, cookie decorating, face painting and a mini-petting zoo with the parish office’s guinea pigs, Patty and Alfie. Classic Christmas shows, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, were also playing in the background. 

Miller said the point of this ministry is to empower the parents to be the primary catechists for their children.

“It’s about the parents that come to the table and do the activities together,” said Miller. “They can be listening to the volunteers and the catechists talk about the activities and they can reinforce those lessons at home.”

“We’ve been coming here since (my kids) were two. It’s like a family tradition,” said Laura Dee, mother of twin six-year-old girls, Mimi and Zizou. “Church is a place for community and gathering. I grew up like that and I want them to know church is for everyone.”

Dee said both her girls are active in their Catholic school, but she is also grateful there is a ministry at St. Patrick’s that helps show her children that the faith is more than just sacraments —  it’s also for community life. 

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