Advent in a collaborative -- Part I

With 102 parishes gathered in 48 collaboratives, it is no surprise that wonderful things are happening. An email request sent out on the Friday before Thanksgiving -- in retrospect, perhaps ill-timed -- garnered a flood of news. It could take the four weeks of Advent to share it all. Add in Year of Mercy plans, and collaborative news could easily fill The Pilot! Over the next few weeks we will provide just a taste of the wonderful things happening in collaboratives.

The Abington/Whitman Collaborative is ready for Advent with a newly designed web page, Light of Christ Catholic Collaborative ( ) Their recent Ministry Fair provided the opportunity for the ministers in all of the ministries to finally meet each other. Perfect timing for Advent, the Quilting Ministry, which sews comfort quilts for those in need in the communities, doubled in size after the fair.

Father Walter Woods, pastor of the Acton/ Stow collaborative writes, "We do have something up our sleeves for Christmas." Books! The collaborative will hand out Matthew Kelly's book "Rediscover Jesus" as people leave Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and follow up with a discussion series early in the New Year, and also during Lent.

Heading north, Father Scott Euvrard tells of several Advent initiatives in the Amesbury/ Salisbury Collaborative. With Christmas on a Friday this year, there is no bulletin to distribute. "We are going to publish a special Christmas bulletin highlighting major parish initiatives in the weeks and months ahead." They will livestream the 4 p.m. Mass to the lower church for parishioners who prefer to sit downstairs rather than stand upstairs. Father Euvrard says, "About 200 people took advantage of this option last year and the feedback was positive." The presider goes down to greet them prior to Mass, and extraordinary ministers will distribute the Eucharist. "While our preference would be to offer a second Mass in the lower church, we haven't been able to find a priest and musicians to make this happen," he says.

In Brookline, St. Mary of the Assumption Parish and St. Lawrence offers a morning of prayer led by their seminarian, Brother Scott Surrency, OFM Cap. Well known Catholic musician Jackie Francois will present to the families. They have plenty of resources for parishioners to enter into the season -- reflections by Pope Francis, Henri Nouwen, and Blessed Mother Teresa.

The Cranberry Collaborative of Middleborough, Lakeville, and Rochester is offering an Advent Mission: Dec. 13, 4-5 p.m. at St. Rose of Lima, Dec. 14, 7-8 p.m. at Sacred Heart, and Dec. 15, 7-8 at Sts. Martha and Mary. They have prepared their own "home grown" Advent reflection calendar and will have a Fair Trade Table at the Dec. 5 Sts. Martha and Mary Bazaar. Supporting third world countries by buying and selling Fair Trade Products fits well with their Pastoral Plan's Social Justice Goals.

St. Ann and St. Brendan Parishes in the Dorchester Collaborative are teaming up with Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy. The children will prepare Christmas cards for visitors at the Christmas Masses. Temporary administrator Father Tom Macdonald says, "The cards will express the children's joy at having so many people come to celebrate the birth of Jesus and will invite our visitors back to the practice of the faith. The messages will be written in the children's own hand and will be decorated with their own art work... some students will distribute these cards at the Christmas Eve Masses."

North again, Father Tim Harrison says, "Things are humming along the Merrimack River these days." He has put "major mileage" on his car and regrets that, "Jesus, unfortunately, never left us 'bi-location' as a charism of ordination..." The folks in the Newburyport/ Merrimac/West Newbury Collaborative are joining with Amesbury/ Salisbury to offer a "Blue Christmas" service, "designed to offer a 'safe space' for prayer for those who are grieving or do not find joy during the holiday season." It will take place at St. Ann Church in West Newbury on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 20.

Through CHRISM, the Quincy Collaborative is offering a four-week Advent Scripture course on the Infancy Narratives, given by parishioner Barbara Sullivan. Sister Bridget Haas, OSU will do an Advent reflection Dec. 1 at St. Ann Parish Hall: "Walking the Path of Faith: the Power, Providence and Presence of God."

Lots going on in Saugus, as well: On Dec. 6 there will be a Collaborative Blessing of Expectant Parents and, in cooperation with the Knights of Columbus, they are sponsoring a "Keeping Christ in Christmas" poster contest. The winning poster will become their collaborative Christmas card.

Stay tuned -- more to come next week. All good, all grace, all blessing.