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Light Dawns, Love Grows, and Hope Blooms at the Paulist Center

Fr Rich AndreRich Andre, CSP
December 16, 2022

I write this on Sunday evening, December 11, gazing out my bedroom window. As the season’s first snow gives a misty glow to the Christmas lights on Boston Common, I’m giving thanks for the beautiful autumn season we’ve experienced at 5 Park Street.

To me, it seems as if our autumn season began and ended 10-14 days ahead of the astronomical season. It started on the weekend of September 10 & 11 with the entire community offering a blessing to our newly-reconstituted pastoral staff, including Fr. Ed. Since then, there seems to be a sense of energy returning to the Paulist Center. We celebrated our first baptism at a Sunday Mass since the pandemic began on September 18, and we jubilantly kicked off our Family Religious Education Program (FREP) the week after that.

This fall, more Paulist Center ministries – most notably, the Wednesday Night Supper Club –ventured back to holding in-person gatherings. Weekend Mass attendance numbers are gradually increasing. Even though we don’t see some beloved Paulist Center Community members in person these days, they are still part of our community. Each week, an astounding 550-700 people open the Missive through their email, and others read it directly from links posted to Facebook, Twitter, and – if they’re willing to copy a URL – Instagram. Most surprising of all, the number of identified donors has held quite steady over the past 4 years. Many of us know members who are no longer engaged with the Paulist Center for various reasons, but evidence shows that new members are stepping in.

It’s clear that our commitment to social justice and marginalized groups continues. From the pulpit, in the bulletin, on the internet, and in meetings, we have addressed care of the environment, racial justice, the role of women in the Church, clergy sexual abuse, the discrimination of LGBTQ+ people, toxic polarization in our nation, and ecumenical & interfaith bridge-building. All the while, we have continued to delve into the rich deposit of faith in the Catholic tradition.

Fall at the Paulist Center concluded with the return of our Advent-Christmas Concert on December 10 & 11. (I guess we demonstrated that we were ready for Christmas, so God provided the snow to enhance the mood!) The Paulist Center Community came together over the weekend, despite epic traffic problems. I’m especially grateful for the great gifts of time, talent, and pastoral sensitivity lavished on us by Normand Gouin and Christine Tardiff. Norm programmed the readings, music, and visual arts, and then handled the thousands of details to stretch an ensemble of 29 musicians — 28 of whom were volunteers and members of the PCC — to create sounds better than we expected of ourselves! Christine once again assembled and rehearsed the children of the community in a her choreographed retelling of the Christmas story. It was a deeply spiritual experience! I’m grateful for everyone else — staff and volunteers — who helped in so many different ways.

I leave you with some of the lyrics from the title song of the program:

Light dawns on a weary world, when eyes begin to see all people’s dignity.
Love grows in a weary world, when hungry hearts find bread and children’s dreams are fed.
Hope blooms in a weary world, when creatures, once forlorn, find wilderness reborn.
The promised day of justice, the promised feast of plenty, the promised green of Eden, comes.

 The trees shall clap their hands; the dry lands, gush with springs;
The hills and mountains shall break forth with singing.
We shall go out with joy, and be led forth in peace,
As all the world in wonder echoes “shalom.”

In this week when many of us will be caught up in last-minute preparations, I wish you all peace, shalom. Remember: no matter how far behind we get on our self-imposed deadlines, Jesus will be born, right on God’s schedule!