By Christie L. Chicoine

CS&T Staff Writer

DOWNINGTOWN – Praying the Christmas novena is a treasured tradition of John and Donna Kurtz’s family of St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown.

“It’s a magnificent time,” John said. “We call upon the Holy Spirit to draw us closer to Jesus and to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation … the moment … where God steps into our history, steps in among us. Without that, there is no cross, there is no redemption.”

The third joyful mystery of the rosary – the Nativity of Our Lord – also has special significance for the family at Advent, John said. In that regard, the importance of seeing Christ in others was among the Advent themes addressed at a recent Kurtz family round-table discussion.

“The Lord wants His children holy – old people, young people, we are all adopted sons and daughters of the Father,” John said.

He and his wife are the adoptive parents of 18 children: Maria Elena, 27; Mari Carmen, 24; Martha, 23; Sandra, 23; Rosa, 22; Natalie, 19; Maggie, 17; David, 17; Alex, 17; Jonathan, 16; Galina, 16; Peter, 15; Dominic Joseph, 15; Dominic Anthony, 14; Martin, 13; Michael, 13; Jose, 13, and Joseph, 11. They are also the guardians of three children: Aura, 19; Erni, 18 and Nicholas, 1.

Attending daily Mass at St. Joseph’s Church and praying before the Blessed Sacrament in the parish’s perpetual Adoration chapel are additional ways the family acknowledges Advent, Donna Kurtz said. At Adoration this time of year, it is almost as though “you’re gazing on the Infant Jesus,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”

And as the family reads Scripture passages aloud at home, questions such as “how can we build each other up and help each other grow closer to the Lord and be holy?” are addressed, Donna said.

For fun, the Kurtz family and some of their friends attend an annual St. Nicholas Day party on Dec. 6. At the party, skits are performed and children receive chocolate coins for their good deeds.

Crafting heartfelt, homemade Christmas presents for each other and praying for and purchasing presents for less fortunate families through their church and community are also priorities for the Kurtz family.

It is important for parents to lead their children in observing Advent, John said. He considers the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church a helpful guide as his family, “a little church,” strives to continually grow in holiness throughout the year.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or