Parishioners of St Francis of Assisi, Sangre Grande experienced a number of spirit-filled activities for Advent 2021. The theme was Hope in the midst of our distress.
Under the guidance of Msgr Michael de Verteuil and Fr Matthew Ragbir, parishioners prepared their hearts to welcome the Christ Child. According to Fr Ragbir, “In the midst of the pandemic, Advent needed to be a time of activities where people could experience hope. As a parish, we grew closer together.”
Aurora Masses were celebrated December 17–24. The term ‘aurora’ means pre-dawn. These Masses began in darkness at 5.30 a.m.
Fr Ragbir explained, “The idea is that in the intensified preparation to celebrate the birth of our Lord, people gather, pray, celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and they experience an expanding desire for the light of Christ who comes.” By the end of the Mass, the sun rose which symbolised Jesus’ coming, the Light of the world.
Fr Ragbir believes that the Aurora Masses helped people to set the tone for each day as they entered this period of intensified longing for God. “People sat in silence and waited; they kept the solemn tone and mood, and allowed the Word of God to soak deep within, as they grew in longing for God.”
During Fr Ragbir’s homily on December 17, he reminded the congregation of the way in which God “enters into human history and enters into the routine of time and space. The generations, the descendants but within that … God brings about a newness.”
He highlighted the fact that Jesus came so that everyone can experience life, His saving love, and His healing touch. Even in the midst of our brokenness and sin sickness, God can use us once we open our hearts to Him.
Reflecting on the experience of celebrating Aurora Masses in the parish for the first time, Fr Ragbir expressed: “There was a great excitement in the whole community. It was very beautiful because the same community that was going to celebrate Christmas together made this journey together. The experience of these Masses energised our tiredness.”
Fr Stephan Alexander celebrated one of the Aurora Masses for the first time. “The ambiance left a sense of reflection in terms of transitioning from the darkness to light. … It was very reflective.”
An Advent Retreat on the Blessed Virgin Mary was hosted virtually through Zoom for three Tuesdays (November 30, December 7 and 14) from 7–9 p.m. According to parishioner and lay minister Carl Lara, “It was a beautiful experience delving into the Scriptures to understand Mary’s role more deeply.” Explanations were given by Dr Brant Pitre. Afterwards, they engaged in discussions with Fr Ragbir and Msgr de Verteuil.
Masses were celebrated in honour of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe. There was also a Holy Hour interceding for family life on December 10.
An Advent family package was also given to every family. In this package, families were gifted with material such as a letter from their parish priests, Advent resources, rosary meditations, parenting wisdom for the pandemic, children’s activities, scriptural readings and colouring activities.
On December 5, families participated in an Advent Family Evening. Time was allotted for prayer and a reflective para liturgy. There were also activities for the entire family. A skit was performed, and everyone took part in an Advent themed bingo.
Parishioners enjoyed all the Advent activities and are looking forward to what the next Advent has in store for them.
– Ottrisha Carter