As we begin Advent, we thought it would be interesting to look at how Christmas is celebrated at L’École catholique. This is a magical time of year for most little ones. In fact, many people, even those who no longer believe in Santa Claus, look forward to it. It is true! The Christmas holidays allow young and old persons alike to dream, gather and celebrate.
Throughout the entire month of December, or even earlier for some schools, we help students and staff members experience a spirit of good values, such as focusing on the importance of giving back. However, while the commercialization of Christmas might help the economy, it has also taken away some of its meaning. That is why, within our schools, we make an effort to underline the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and what he taught us.
An Advent-ful season
Faith education in a French-language Catholic school environment is provided by the Office Provincial de l’Éducation de la foi catholique de l’Ontario (OPÉCO) in partnership with the youth ministry, leadership at the province’s eight Catholic school boards, education consultants, pastoral animation teams and teaching staff. OPÉCO suggests themes and activities around the introduction to sacraments and growing in faith as adults. In our schools, all prayers, discussions and activities will be connected to the Advent 2022 theme: Croire pour mieux voir! OPÉCO is also suggesting different activities you can do at home. We invite you to visit their website where you will find the Advent 2022 kit (in French only).
For the community
Perhaps you saw — or even participated in — our November challenge on social media. If not, that means you are not following L’École catholique on Facebook and Instagram… What are you waiting for? We invite you to head there right away! Each week, we share our best pieces of advice.
This challenge involved filling a box with non-perishable items for your school or parish’s food drive or bringing it directly to your community’s food bank. Many food and donation drives take place leading up to the holidays and they are so essential!
Did you know that the number of Canadian families suffering from food insecurity has risen significantly over the last few years? Many food banks have seen the number of people relying on them for help almost double, and they predict another large increase in 2023. In addition, the majority of families who have difficulty putting food on the table face other challenges, such as paying monthly bills. Fall’s colder temperatures lead to higher electricity and heating costs, and a greater need for warm clothing. And, as the holidays approach, these challenges intensify and can weigh heavily on a parent who wants to be able to give their child everything on their wish list. This is why we believe it is important to give back whenever you can.
During this time of year, we focus on food drives because food banks distribute a huge part of their inventory in December. This means they start the year with their shelves fairly empty. That being said, the need exists all year long! So, if you and your family are able, we encourage you to give regularly throughout the year to help the families who are the most in need in your neighbourhood. A simple canned item, a package of pasta, hygiene products or a bottle of laundry detergent can make a big difference!
To obtain their diploma, high school students have to accumulate at least 40 hours of community service. Outside of this requirement, we encourage all our students, including those in elementary school, to give time to those who need it, whenever they choose. The Christmas holidays are full of interesting opportunities to do this.
For example, many seniors are alone and find this time of year particularly difficult. For this reason, some students create beautiful greeting cards to deliver to nursing and retirement homes. Certain students, and sometimes even a whole class, visit these residences to talk, play games, read books or even perform a few songs. These moments of intergenerational listening and sharing are precious for the seniors and they are grateful for them.
Several of our students also get involved with charitable organizations, whether it be the Optimist Club’s Christmas Angels, Club Richelieu’s Christmas baskets, shelters providing meals to homeless people or hospitals, to name just a few. We are extremely proud of our students every year!
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)
Simply put, our schools strive to pass on the concepts of sharing, mutual aid and solidarity to students, as these are key elements in becoming a good citizen of the world.
For our students
Different activities and celebrations organized over the Christmas break allow us to remind students of the essence of the Feast of the Nativity. They also help us share values with them such as love, solidarity, peace, and gratitude.
Pastoral activities and Eucharistic celebrations provide students with the opportunity to learn, practise and deepen Christian and human values. It is a way they can freely live and demonstrate their faith. Also, some schools present a live nativity scene as part of their Christmas presentation, whereas others organize a Christmas meal or collect toys, non-perishable items or warm clothing. Activities vary greatly from one school to the other, but they are all wonderful learning opportunities while also being a chance to have fun and relax.
As we end this blog post, we certainly could not forget to mention our students’ artistic activities! Many students have spent many weeks rehearsing for Christmas shows, plays, dances, musical performances, and more. Our schools encourage our students to discover, develop and share their many talents.
Outside of these shows, students are also invited to use their creativity in different ways and for different reasons. Students make decorations, Christmas cards, crafts or eco-friendly gifts. Each class takes part in different activities, but you can be sure that students are getting ready for Christmas in a creative and festive way. On that note, we wish you a wonderful holiday season, surrounded by love and your family and friends.
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