21 Jan CHRISTMAS IN OASIS ST RAPHAELLA/USA
December in Pinewoods North buzzed with community, faith, and some uncertainty. While Oasis tutoring was paused for Christmas break, many children, parents and grandparents came together to celebrate the Novena for Our Lady of Guadalupe, masses for Our Lady of Guadalupe and Christmas, las Posadas, and the preparation of gifts for the children and families. Friends and benefactors from the local parish, the University Catholic Center and elsewhere added to the celebrations with their generosity and presence. So many hands and hearts from distinct corners of Athens and beyond gathered to pray, serve and celebrate, with mutual benefit and enrichment! One could perceive God at work, tending bridges among people who might not otherwise meet, and knitting together the Kingdom with the simple threads of connection, generosity and faith. December also included changes which have created some uncertainty in this neighborhood, in which families live with the constant weight of a precarious legal status and limited resources. The trailer park was sold to new owners and the change is unsettling to many people. While the new owners seem to have good plans for the neighborhood and appreciate the work of the sisters, our neighbors naturally worry about the demands and changes that new management could make. What is almost certain is that the monthly rent will soon increase, and this will pose a serious challenge to many families.
A couple of snapshots from the rest of December:
• Two dozen children (organized by a mother and faithful collaborator from the neighborhood) participated in a Guadalupana play and a live nativity scene. Some were shy, others excited, but all of them had a part in bringing to life these sacred scenes and, with their innocence and faith, ministering to the families who were gathered for mass.
• During the Novena and the Posadas (18 nights in total!), neighbors pilgrimed together from one house to another with song and prayer and were treated to a tasty treat by the family who received them. There were people of all ages, including several adolescents who participated nightly. One of the mothers, desiring to foster active participation in the life of faith among the young people, asked the sisters to speak particularly to the youth in their nightly reflections. The youth also stepped up for small leadership roles in these nightly prayers, which was beautiful to see. Praying together across many generations was truly a rich experience of the body of Christ, made up of many parts, all necessary and all bound to support the others.
S. Catherine Kirwan-Avila, aci