From staff reports
Christmas Carol Festivals, which combine music, faith witness, Scripture and fellowship, have delighted attendees for a decade. With an aim to welcome lapsed Catholics and those expressing an interest in learning more, CCF will return throughout the Diocese in force this Advent.
One such concert is that of Cohort 11 – which includes St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Farmingdale; St. Veronica Parish and St. William the Abbot Parish, both Howell – which plans to host its CCF at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 in St. Catherine of Siena Church, 31 Asbury Road.
“Christmas Carol Festivals are a joyful event for the active Catholics, but it is an important and a wonderful opportunity for the non-active and the non-Catholic alike,” said Laura Randazzo, St. Catherine of Siena Parish council coordinator. “It is a personal invitation and can be the warm welcome of encouragement to return home.”
The CCF program, which lasts about 45 to 90 minutes, was developed by John and Therese Boucher in 2007. In creating the program, John Boucher, then-diocesan associate director of evangelization, and his wife, an adult religious educator, noted the national trend toward the growing number of inactive Catholics had also affected the Diocese of Trenton.
Cohort 11’s event is free to attend, and includes a procession of a statue of the infant Jesus to the manger and invitations to future parish programs. The CCF at St. Catherine’s will also feature a tree-lighting ceremony, cookies and cider reception and special guest appearance by the original St. Nicholas.
Combined parish choirs of St. Catherine and St. Veronica have been preparing their CCF music since October. Youth of the parish cohort will also help at the hospitality table and as greeters.
Members of St. Catherine of Siena Parish children’s choir reflected on their reason for wanting to participate in their parish’s CCF.
“[It is important to me] because it’s about baby Jesus, and baby Jesus created everything,” said 7-year-old Michael Natilili.
“I feel like I’m a part of my community,” said Alyssa Jones, 13. “I like watching people’s faces light up when we all sing for them.”
Melissa Bascone, 9, enjoys “singing about Jesus, and I want to be closer to him.”
Her mother, Lisa, added, “I can’t wait to see them perform … It’s a nice program to be involved in, and I’m so happy she’s a part of it.”
The shared effort between the three parishes is a direct result of the Faith in Our Future Collaboration Model for Cohort 11, Randazzo explained. Both St. Catherine of Siena and St. Veronica parishes have held successful CCFs individually within the past four years.
“The gift of music is emotional and thought-provoking. It calls out to people touching their hearts and is instrumental in personal reflections,” Randazzo added. “Our treasure of religious Christmas songs can help people encounter the beauty of God and the Good News of the birth of Jesus. We have been given a wonderful gift of faith, and this initiative gives new hope by offering simple ways to invite, share and teach faith with others.”
Ernie D’Albero, St. Catherine of Siena parishioner, has been helping with the CCF preparations. He touched on the CCF’s ability to remind people of a joyful youth.
“I think when people come together to sing Christmas carols it [recalls] those happy memories,” he said. “So maybe they can inspire a resurgence of faith in people. This [event] is two weeks before Christmas. The excitement … [is] not ‘Santa Claus is coming,’ it’s the real reason – the birth of our savior.”
Correspondents Ken Downey and EmmaLee Italia contributed to this report.