Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 18, 2000
A priest's Christmas
Despite a heavy schedule, pastors find time to enjoy the season
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Priests are always especially busy during the Christmas season.
And with Christmas falling on a Monday this year, some priests will celebrate as many as six Masses on the weekend, including a couple on Christmas Eve and another two on Christmas Day.
However busy, most priests celebrate Christmas much the way the rest of us do - sharing with family and friends.
The only real difference is perhaps that priests treat Christmas for what it really is: a celebration of the birth of Christ as opposed to an exhausting shopping contest.
Most priests do exchange gifts with friends and family but it's never an extravagant pursuit. Father Martin Carroll and his staff at St. Alphonsus Parish will exchange presents at their Christmas lunch in the week before Christmas.
"I see Christmas as a great reminder of the love of God for us," the priest says. "It brings home the reality of the love of God for us."
Following Christmas Day Mass, Carroll, whose family lives in England, will head to Drayton Valley to spend Christmas with friends, as he has done for a number of years.
He'll stay there unwinding until Dec. 27, before resuming parish duties. "I certainly won't be making use of the alarm clock when I am in Drayton Valley," he laughs.
"I enjoy Christmas. It's a time to visit friends that I don't get a chance to see during the rest of the year."
For Father Len Cadieux, rector of St. Joseph's Basilica, "Christmas is the coming of Christ," which he celebrates with "a lot of services" before joining his family for a "big meal" on Christmas Day.
"I'm of the opinion that Christmas should be celebrated seven days a week, 24 hours a day all year round," he said. "That's what I'm waiting for. People should have the same attitude they have at Christmas all year round."
Father Karl Raab of Holy Family Parish in St. Albert, like most active pastors, will go straight to bed after midnight Mass, the third Mass of the night and the first Christmas Mass, to be well rested for two other Christmas liturgies the next morning.
Following the Masses, he will attend an early Christmas dinner with his family before heading to the Franciscan house in Edmonton for another Christmas dinner with the friars.
"I enjoy Christmas," the priest says. "Christmas can be very hectic but I keep telling people to slow down and to enjoy the season."
Family as well as parishioners shower Raab with presents every Christmas.
"Perhaps I receive too many (presents)," he laughs. "I keep telling and telling family and parishioners that I don't need anymore stuff, that I have everything I need, that they should instead consider making a monetary contribution to the Nicaraguan fund of Father Denis Hebert (an Edmonton priest serving among the Nicaraguan poor)."
Raab also give presents to his family but, as he explains, "It's usually more of a family gift rather than singling out individuals because there are too many."
Father Les Drewicki, pastor of Olds, Didsbury and Sundre, celebrates several Masses on Christmas Eve, the last one in Olds, where he lives. By the time the liturgy ends it's already late at night so he usually just comes home and open cards and presents before going to sleep.
"It's actually a very beautiful time for me because it's been a very, very heavy day, especially this year with Sunday kind of melting right into Christmas Eve," he explains.
"But it's kind of an unwinding time when I finally get back to the rectory at the end of it. The cards and gifts I receive make me feel happier and a lot more joyful about the season, about the priesthood and about my time here. So Christmas Eve is a very rewarding and fulfilling time for me."
On Christmas Day, Drewicki celebrates more Masses and then heads off to Edmonton to have Christmas supper with his family.
On Boxing Day, he sleeps in and unwinds. "Boxing Day is a very, very nice day for a priest."
Basilian Father Brian Inglis, a retired professor at St. Joseph's College and now pastor at Hinton, used to travel to Toronto to be with his mother for the Christmas season.
Since he became pastor of Our Lady of the Foothills Parish three years ago, he stays in town for Christmas. "I always get invited to (Christmas) dinner in the evening," he says, noting he starts getting dinner invitations as early as September and October.
Inglis also gets a lot of presents, which tend to be clothing and sometimes money, "which I have to turn in" because religious priests make vows of poverty and are not allowed to take money.
He doesn't give presents because he is "father of the whole bunch" and can't seem to appear making distinctions by giving to some.
The Basilian likes to have a quiet Christmas, away from the commercialization and more focused on the spiritual.
"It's meant to be a great feast of the Incarnation, the birth of the Lord," he explains. "I would like it to be that and I can afford to keep it that way because I don't give presents (and therefore) I don't have to do a lot of shopping."
After having Christmas dinner with a family, Inglis returns to the rectory to meditate and to catch up on parish work. "I appreciate the time I can be alone because there are so many things that I can do."
Father Larry Pederson, pastor at Killam, Daysland, Heisler and various missions, usually spends Christmas Day with his two sisters and their families in Leduc. "It's a family gathering. We have dinner and fellowship."
When time allows, Pederson and his sisters go shopping together for presents for his nephews and nieces.
"Christmas is a beautiful time for me," the pastor says. "I look forward to it every year."
So does Father Eduardo Escober of Vermilion, who will celebrate six Masses in and around Vermilion between Saturday and Monday. After the Christmas Eve Mass this year, he plans to "relax a little bit, thank the Lord for his blessings and take a little bit of rest."
After the last Mass on Christmas Day, Monday, Escober will again do what he usually does year after year - head to Edmonton to visit his sisters and enjoy a traditional Filipino Christmas meal.