Bright Christmas Fund Spreads Cheer in Diocese
PROSPECT HEIGHTS – The readers of The Tablet have excelled this past holiday season and helped make this a truly radiant Christmas for children and families in the Diocese of Brooklyn and beyond.
Each year, The Tablet runs the Bright Christmas campaign to ensure no child goes without a gift at Christmas. That year, the campaign raised $119,848.71, which helped bring the total amount raised over the campaign’s last 10 years to nearly $1.6 million.
The donations helped various schools, churches and organizations within the diocese to make Christmas a memorable one for children and families in need during this holiday season.
This year’s recipients included diocesan congregations, including the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace in Coney Island, whose goal was to provide toys to underprivileged children at their annual Christmas celebration. According to the community’s religious education teacher, Maria Garces, Bright Christmas was a blessing for the children.
“It’s about putting a smile on a kid’s face,” Garces said, explaining that “we want to make a difference and we want these kids to feel it in their hearts through our teaching and our love.”
On December 18, after Sunday School classes, the school held a surprise party for the students. Children who would not otherwise receive gifts were given toys and gift bags.
Other churches and parishes that received Bright Christmas Funds included Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, St. Michael-St. Malachy, Presentation of the Church of the Blessed Virgin, the Parish of St. Martin de Porres and the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph-St. Teresa Avila, where Father Christopher Heanue said the money was used to buy gifts for the community’s children, to celebrate Epiphany and to help individual families struggling financially.
The students of the Ss. The Joachim and Anne School in Queens has always opened its hearts to the less fortunate and this year was no exception.
As more and more migrants came to the diocese, the Queens Village school made a special effort to open its doors to newly arrived children. Director Linda Freebes said it was her mission to help in any way she could.
“With our Superintendent, Deacon Kevin McCormack, encouraging schools to educate immigrant children here in Queens and Brooklyn, we want to help these families because, after all, we are the immigrant diocese,” she said.
Freebes said the school took in a collection last January and deposited everything at the Immaculate Conception Center and then did another fundraiser for the Little Sisters of the Poor, which included 20 boxes and bags of much-needed toiletries, paper towels, tissues, and other basic needs .
“As soon as we had given all that, five migrant families from Ecuador approached us and wanted their children to go to the Ss. Joachim and Anne,” explained Freebes. “Then the doors opened, we took the children in, gave them uniforms and books and provided the families with everything they needed.”
SS. Joachim and Anne is also where the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s pantry is located, and the school’s staff room is always stocked with food for the people who stop by each week for groceries, blankets, and others Get items where the teachers are the school help offer. Migrant families make up the majority of those seeking help this year.
SS. Joachim and Anne’s story of helping continues with a contribution from the Bright Christmas Fund, which helped them help others again this year.
Futures in Education, whose mission is to provide financial aid and scholarships to the neediest Catholic students in Brooklyn and Queens, also received a bright Christmas present.
This year the fund again helped fill the pantry of St. John’s Bread & Life. According to Executive Director, Sister Caroline Tweedy, RSM, their mission is simple: to nourish the body, mind and spirit of those in need.
Sister Caroline explained that St. John’s Bread & Life is trying to raise funds to provide 750 holiday food baskets to families in need.
“Bright Christmas funds help us provide this basket, along with a gift card, which a family can use to purchase a gift of their choice for their child,” Sister Caroline explained. “We are therefore grateful for the support we are receiving and I hope that the Bright Christmas Fund will continue to support our efforts during the holiday season for years to come.”
In addition to St. John’s Bread & Life, support was offered to the Catholic charities of Brooklyn and Queens Bright Christmas; St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters; Make a difference Christmas; families, fathers and children; House of Providence; and Reaching-Out Community Services, whose efforts are helping to put holiday food on tables and gifts under the tree for many struggling families.
And it’s not too late to help. Any additional funds received will be added to next year’s Bright Christmas campaign.