By Nadia Maria Smith

CS&T Staff Writer

Several parishes throughout the Archdiocese will be offering a special Advent program designed to reach out to inactive Catholics before Christmas.

The event called “Do you hear what I hear?” is an evening of caroling, trivia, fellowship, prayer and surprises that will help anyone celebrate Advent.

“People listen to Christmas carols on the radio or in the mall – people who don’t even go to church and sing Christmas carols – so it’s an opportunity to invite inactive Catholics to learn a bit more about what is behind those Christmas carols,” said Franciscan Sister Louise Alff, coordinator of Parish Evangelization for the Archdiocese and promoter of the event.

Participants will learn interesting facts about some of their favorite Christmas songs. Take “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Did you know it was written in Philadelphia by Pastor Phillips Brooks of Rittenhouse Square’s Holy Trinity Episcopalian Church in 1868? That’s just one example of the fun facts you’ll learn, according to Sister Alff.

In addition to singing some of those favorite tunes, there will be an opportunity to pray with the words of such songs like “O Holy Night,” helping participants delve deeper into the meaning of Christ’s birth, she said.

“The whole premise is to use caroling and the Christmas festivity as an opportunity to do some evangelization,” said Ann Marie Gervino, a parishioner of St. Christopher Parish in Northeast Philadelphia who coordinated the event last year at her church. “In this context, it is giving them the opportunity to experience the spirituality of Christmas and draw them into something much deeper.”

The “Do you hear what I hear?” event drew nearly 500 people to St. Christopher’s for a powerful, joyful night. “Since they had a good experience, they are more likely to return to another parish event,” Gervino said. “It was a step in the right direction to welcome and share the spirit of the Christmas season with those not actively involved in the Church.”

Ann and Bob King of Assumption B.V.M.Parish in Feasterville couldn’t agree more.

They coordinated the event along with Sister of St. Joseph Diane Wolf, the parish coordinator, and more than 250 people attended. “There were several touching moments, lots of laughter and happy tears,” said Ann King. “One person told us he was coming back to the Church because of the experience he had that night, and he did. We had great support from our pastor and although it was a lot of work, we highly recommend it. It’s well worth it. It created a sense of unity and community and people in our parish are still talking about it.”

Yet all the organizers agree that to make the event successful it takes parishioners to invite inactive Catholic friends or family members to attend.

“We hope that each person in the parish who is coming uses this as a vehicle to introduce inactive Catholics to your parish in a nonthreatening way,” Sister Alff said. “They will experience the joy of the community, be involved in a ritual that speaks to them personally and will see and participate in the fellowship of the community.”

For more information, contact the following parishes or Sister Louise Alff at (215) 587-0547.

Do You Hear What I Hear?
Sunday, Nov. 30
*St. Francis of Assisi, Springfield, 2 p.m.
*St. Joseph, Downingtown, 6:30 p.m.
*Epiphany of Our Lord, Plymouth Meeting, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 3
*Marianist Center, 1341 N. Delaware Ave., Suite 406, Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
*St. Matthew, Conshohocken, 7 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 7
*St. Mary, Schwenksville, 1:30 p.m.
*St. Francis de Sales, Philadelphia, 4 p.m.
*Holy Martyrs,Oreland, 7 p.m.
*St. Charles Borromeo,Drexel Hill, 7 p.m.