Southern Tier parishes bring Christmas joy to needy children - Catholic Courier
A priest raises his hands as he blesses a pile of boxes. Photo courtesy of Anne Dziuba and Warren KlickFather Jeffrey Tunnicliff, parochial administrator of St. Mary of the Lake in Watkins Glen and St. Benedict in Odessa, blesses the boxes of gifts that were assembled as part of the Boxes of Joy program.

Photo courtesy of Anne Dziuba and Warren Klick

Father Jeffrey Tunnicliff, parochial administrator of St. Mary of the Lake in Watkins Glen and St. Benedict in Odessa, blesses the boxes of gifts that were assembled as part of the Boxes of Joy program.

Southern Tier parishes bring Christmas joy to needy children

Since its inception in 2016, the Box of Joy program through Cross Catholic Ministries has blessed increasing numbers of children in the Caribbean and Central America and allowed them to experience the joy of Christmas through simple shoebox gifts full of treasures.

The first year, Cross Catholic distributed 31,712 shoeboxes, and in 2020, 61,422 gift boxes were given to children. Currently, children receiving missionary support through Cross Catholic Outreach in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada and Honduras receive shoeboxes full of toys, hard candy and basic essentials. The children also receive spiritual encouragement through friendly notes, prayer cards, rosary beads with instructions for the prayer, biblical coloring books and The Story of Jesus.

St. Mary of the Lake, Watkins Glen, and St. Benedict, Odessa, are blessed to have participated in the Box of Joy ministry since 2016. At its core, the program allows a generous heart to share with a distant child a small collection of gifts to convey that they are loved and not forgotten.

At our Schuyler Catholic Community, the giving comes in a variety of forms. With little announcing or encouragement, the empty shoeboxes are simply put on display with some support materials, such as gift suggestions. All materials are supplied by Cross Catholic Outreach, even bulletin announcements about the program. The parishioners interested in participating anonymously pick up an empty box, fill it and return it again quietly.

There are many who build a box to give thanks for the gift of their children or grandchildren. Parishioners who are grandparents often report that they fill the box with the assistance of their grandchild as a way to teach him or her about sharing with children of less fortunate means.

Several give more than one box. In fact, one couple year to year put together as many as 20 boxes because their children are grown and they love the idea of making Christmas special for children.

Beginning this year, children in faith formation at St. Mary of the Lake each filled a shoebox. One teacher, who particularly has a heart for this giving ministry, received many donations for the Box of Joy ministry throughout the year. The teacher and our pastoral minister placed toys, stuffed animals, school supplies and basic essentials on different tables. The children learned about the Box of Joy ministry by watching a brief video created by Cross Catholic Outreach. Then, each child filled a shoebox full of items he or she would like to receive. Each child wrote a little something about himself or herself to share with the child who would receive his or box, with a promise to pray for the child and their family throughout the Christmas season.

St. Mary of the Lake has been a drop-off center as well for the New York Southern Tier and the Pennsylvania Northern Tier for several years. This allows some networking with coordinators from several parishes. It is easily appreciated the cheerful giving disposition of the other parish representatives toward this ministry, along with their reported expressed enthusiasm of the parishioners from their churches.

As a lead up to the holy season of Advent and Christmas, this ministry provides opportunity to share with the poor of other lands, and as a way to say thank you to God for the blessing that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, brings to us in his Incarnation. Perhaps other parishes can consider participating in this ministry, along with the other outreaches already in place at their various locales.

If you are interested in learning more about the Box of Joy ministry through Cross Catholic Outreach, please visit crosscatholic.org/box-of-joy.

Tags: Faith in Action, Schuyler County News
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