Djené Gorin, president of the Newman Centre Students’ Club at the University of Toronto, assembles the Advent Calendar Challenge. Photo courtesy Djené Gorin

Small kindnesses the rage in Newman challenge

  • December 15, 2023

The Newman Catholic Students’ Club hopes to illuminate the University of Toronto with pay-it-forward Christmas cheer before the holiday break.

For the second straight year, the group is hosting an Advent calendar challenge to encourage the campus community to appreciate the impact of small kindnesses.

“I remember last year someone decided to buy a donut from Tim Hortons for someone else,” said Djené Gorin, the president of the Newman student club. “That small act of kindness can make someone’s day, right? It is great to see people look around and think about how they can serve each other.”

From Dec. 1 to Christmas Eve, Gorin unveils each day’s challenge with a video uploaded to Instagram (account name: uoft_ncsc) of her turning over a card from the club’s handmade calendar.

Gorin, a fourth-year bachelor of commerce student specializing in management, said the challenge was a bit more general last year. Anyone could participate on any day via social media or by being present for the in-person opening of a Christmas ornament on a tree containing the test of the day and a Scripture verse.

“It was a great way to draw people in,” recalled Liam Douglas, a third-year student pursuing a double major in philosophy and Christianity and culture. “You had different students read out the challenges each time and participating in them the best they could.”

One of the more ambitious challenges was gathering enough students to form a human Advent wreath.

 This year, the club is opting for a more targeted approach. The leaders of the initiative collected sign-ups and then assigned each participant a “secret angel” for the 24 days.

A few of the practical quests completed so far include giving the secret angel a simple and beautiful gift (a flower, a drawing), sharing tips about getting involved at the Newman Centre, offering a compliment and giving him or her a goodie from the Newman Centre treat box.

Challenges between Dec. 11-15 were largely centred around that week’s fall exams. Members prayed to St. Joseph of Cupertino for their secret angel to succeed in exams. Students also shared study tips and advice on how to de-stress after tests.

Other tasks have a more spiritual dimension. Partakers are asked to keep their secret angel in their prayers during adoration. They are also asked to share their favourite verse of Scripture, talk about their favourite saint and share advice on how to be grateful to God.

Gorin said she and the crew who organized the Advent calendar challenge did receive a continual spiritual gift from the inaugural campaign in 2022.

“One of the challenges was to pray the Rosary. We decided to pray it together as an evangelization team and that became something we did every week we were together up until the end of the (school year). It was a spiritual fruit for every one of us.”

Douglas is another believer in the spiritual potential of the Advent calendar challenge.

“It is possible that doing these small acts of charity can bring you more closely to Christ, who gave Himself in the greatest act of charity known to mankind,” he said.

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