A dusting of snow covered the grounds of St. Columba Parish in Bloomsburg on the first Sunday of Advent, a sort of tangible reminder – along with the newly-lit Advent wreath – of Christ’s impending arrival at Christmas.
No doubt, the snowfall and the adorned Advent wreath lent to an anticipatory atmosphere in the Columbia-County church that morning.
The Advent season, however, is also a time of preparation in which the faithful direct their hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time – a message that Bishop Ronald Gainer underscored during his pastoral visit to St. Columba on Sunday, November 28.
Celebrating Mass for the parish community, the bishop called to mind Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the story of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge and the visits of the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future that ultimately turn him into a kind and charitable man.
Dickens’ classic is a “timeless story of conversion” and “very much the message of Advent,” Bishop Gainer said.
“Advent asks us to look to the past, the centuries of longing and waiting of God’s chosen people to fulfill the promise of a Messiah,” he remarked.
It calls us to look at the future, “as the Gospel clearly tells, to remind us that time itself will culminate in the glorious return of Jesus…,” the bishop said. “The one who came in humility in the manger at Bethlehem will come in majesty and glory. The one whose identity was hidden will come with his identity undeniable. The one who came and was judged will come in glory to be the judge.”
Advent asks us to look to the future, “to ask ourselves how we are doing in the present moment, and what do we need to do to be more ready to celebrate the wonder of the Christmas miracle,” he said.
“As we begin his new year together in the Church, the Lord warns us about those dispositions that are essential for us to live in the present moment, grateful for all that God has done in the past, understanding that those very mysteries of salvation come to us in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist…and to be prepared to stand up and welcome the king of kings when he returns in glory,” Bishop Gainer said.
During the Mass, Father Richard Mowery, pastor, joined altar servers for the lighting of the Advent wreath, which was blessed by Bishop Gainer.
Located in the northernmost county in the Diocese of Harrisburg, the history of St. Columba Parish dates to 1826, when German and Irish Catholics were working on the local canal and railroads. Priests from Milton and Pottsville cared for the spiritual needs of the laborers and their families. By the late 1840s, they became a mission of St. Joseph and St. Hubert parishes in Danville. St. Columba received full parish status in 1882 with the appointment of the first resident pastor.
The parish continues to be a strong, faith-based community with various ministries that evangelize and serve the local community, including St. Columba School, Meals on Wheels, prison ministry, an angel tree project, support of the Bloomsburg Food Cupboard and the efforts of the Knights of Columbus and the Council of Catholic Women.
The November 28 liturgy and luncheon that followed in the adjacent parish center was a notable occasion for parishioners, gathered for the Mass concelebrated by the bishop, their current pastor, and Father Patrick Devine, former pastor from 1994-2009.
“I have been back to the parish a number of times since I retired, but this was special because it was the first time concelebrating with the bishop,” said Father Devine, who resides in Elysburg in his retirement from active ministry. “It was wonderful to watch how the people were participating and engaged in the whole Mass.”
“It’s always terrific to come back and be a part of it,” he said. “It was a joy to see everyone.”
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness