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Advent is a season for gifts and gratitude. Students will EXPLORE the concept of gratitude by reflecting on the journeys of 2 refugee families – the Holy Family and a real life family at the border and APPLY the learnings to their own lives. Students will ANALYZE some of the causes of the refugee crisis and EXAMINE the church’s teaching on it.
Pray the following by inviting a reader to slowly read the prayer.
You Are a Gift
You are a gift that God has created
Your heart was formed to bring love into the world
Your mind was developed to learn about complex problems that face humanity
Your imagination was designed to dream of new ways to help those in need
Your hands were made to welcome the stranger and feed the hungry
Your feet were shaped to take you out of your comfort zone and to walk in another’s footsteps
Your eyes were sculpted to see the dignity of all people
Your senses were made so that you could experience all of creation
And you were made to love with all your being
And in that love to be God’s gift to all
Tears welled up in Sister Genie C. Natividad’s eyes as she watched a little boy hanging on to his mother’s hand and carrying a stuffed toy in the other hand while standing in line at the airport. Maryknoll Sisters Genie and Joy had driven the mother and child to the airport. The boy and his mother had arrived as asylum seekers at Casa Alitas Welcome Center in Tuscan, Arizona where the Maryknoll Sisters had been working as volunteers for many weeks. Sister Genie wrote in her journal about her time at Casa Alitas saying, “All we can do here is respond with love, with compassion, with kindness and respect to anyone and everyone who comes our way. My heart melts at the sight of these weary travelers as we welcome them. We serve them food and drink upon arrival and provide clothing, showers, and shelter. The majority of our guests are children, most of whom come with their parents. After a shower and something to eat the children are given a stuffed toy and a coloring book.” This was the stuffed toy the boy grasped in his hand as he waited for the airplane. The mother held a bag with sandwiches that Sister Joy Esmenda prepared for the asylum seekers journey. The Sisters knew that the mom had just $20 for the journey with her son. That was all she had for meals and any expenses along the way. SIster Genie had drIven the car to the airport and remembers, “Just as they were getting out of the car, the mother handed us her $20 bill. We simultaneously said, “No. That is for your journey. Sister Joy stayed in the car while I accompanied them inside and all the way to the gate. All smiles, the boy showed me his stuffed toy and said he sleeps with it at night. They were both so grateful. Boarding time was finally announced, and mother and child got in line. As we hugged and said our goodbyes, the boy suddenly raised his hand with his stuffed toy. He wanted to give it to me as a token of their appreciation. With tears welling up in my eyes, I suddenly remembered the Little Drummer Boy who was summoned by the Magi to the place where Jesus was born. The words of the song that describe a poor boy with no gift to bring echoed in my mind. I said to the boy, no, no, that’s for you to keep so you sleep well at night. I nodded approvingly at the boy’s generosity. He smiled and waved goodbye.”
SHARE with a partner or JOURNAL answers to the following questions.
- What does gratitude look like in this story?
- What can we learn from the actions of the mom and the boy about selfless giving and gratitude?
- How do you usually express gratitude?
- Have you ever given away something that was really important to you to show your gratitude? If yes, what was it and how did it make you feel?
READ ONE OF THE FOLLOWING:
- CHRISTIAN LIVING: Hebrews 13: 2
- LIFE OF JESUS: Matthew 2: 7-14
- CHRISTIAN LIVING: 2 Corinthians 8: 8-15
In a small group DISCUSS or JOURNAL your answers to the following questions.
- The Hebrews scripture tells us not to neglect hospitality. What does hospitality look like to you? How did the migrants in this story offer hospitality to the Maryknoll Sisters?
- What role did the Kings play in the Holy Family fleeing as refugees’ to Egypt? How do you think Joseph and Mary felt having to flee in the night in order to protect the life of the baby Jesus? Do you think that they were grateful for finding refuge in Egypt? What if they had been turned back at the border?
- According to St. Paul in 2 Corinthians why should we be generous?
WHAT DOES THE CHURCH SAY?
“The presence of migrants and refugees represents a great challenge, but at the same time an immense opportunity for the cultural and spiritual growth of everyone. Thanks to them, we have the chance to know better our world and its beautiful diversity. We can grow in our common humanity and build together an ever greater sense of togetherness. Openness to one another creates spaces of fruitful exchange between different visions and traditions, and opens minds to new horizons. It also leads to a discovery of the richness present in other religions and forms of spirituality unfamiliar to us, and this helps us to deepen our own convictions.” Pope Francis World Day of Migrants Message Sept. 2022
With a partner DISCUSS or JOURNAL your answers to the following questions.
1. How have refugees and migrants enriched your community?
2. What might we learn from refugees and migrants?
3. How might we express gratitude towards them?
VIEW the Migratory profile map on the Migrants-Refugees Vatican’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees Website. You can find the link on DiscoverYourNeighbor.org website. When you hold your cursor over a location on the map it will give you the country’s profile.
DIVIDE into groups of 3-5 people. GIVE each group 4 index cards, paper, or sticky notes. INSTRUCT the groups to label each card with a number 1-4. Then assign the groups or have them choose 2 to 3 countries from the Migratory Profile Map. (you may choose to download the profiles prior to class to pass out to each group). Groups will WRITE their answers to the following questions on their cards. Question 1 will go on card 1, etc.
- Card 1. What is happening in these countries that is causing people to move away from their homes?
- Card 2. What do these countries have in common?
- Card 3. What is different in these countries?
- Card 4. What did I learn about migration and the movement of people from these countries?
On the wall place a paper with Card 1, Card 2, Card 3, and Card 4. Include the question if possible. Leave room below the paper so groups can place their cards that correspond with each question.
INVITE each group to come up near the papers on the wall. Have them PRESENT their findings for each question and then tape or stick their card under each question. After all the groups have SHARED their findings SUMMARIZE the total classes findings by pointing out how many things were similar and some of the learnings of the group.
RAISE YOUR VOICE
WRITE a thank you note to someone you know who has done something special for you. Consider writing a thank you note to a different person every week of Advent.
Learn more about families at the border. https://www.maryknollmagazine.org/2021/12/christmas-at-the-border-holy-families-in-our-midst/
BE A GLOBAL NEIGHBOR
Around the world Maryknoll Missioners continue to accompany people on the move and witness the conditions in which they flee.
Maryknollers are following Jesus by serving the poor and all those in need in over 20 countries. One of those Missioners is Father Mike Bassano who accompanies people in a refugee camp in South Sudan. He said, “My hope is that the people in the camp can return home someday soon. I keep encouraging them not to lose hope. It may take 5, 10 or 15 years, but we’ll get there. And I’ll accompany them in that journey as long as I can.”
SHARE a gift and help support Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in the work they are doing with people on the move by going to https://maryknollsociety.org/how-support.
ENGAGE YOUR FAMILY
“In Laudato Si, Pope Francis continually emphasizes the theme of gratitude, reminding us that gratitude is critical to our relationship with the natural world and our fellow human beings. Gratitude enables us to see the interconnectedness of all created things and the sacredness of human life, because all are gifts from God.
Simply put, gratitude is the natural response to a gift. And may we always cultivate respect for human life by helping others embrace their dignity, never treating them as burdens or taking them for granted. For each of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation, and worthy of love.” (Gratitude, USCCB)
This Advent, cultivate an attitude of gratitude. CREATE a family gratitude journal that can be used to prompt the family to reflect and encourage gratitude and giving. You can use one journal as a family, however, it may be easier to have a separate journal for each person in the family. (Find ideas by searching Family Gratitude Journal on the Web). USE your journal every day or on the Sundays of Advent. WRITE or DRAW answers to the following questions or WRITE your own questions.
- What is something that happened today or this week that I am thankful for?
- Describe a time that you did something nice for another person.
- How can we use the gifts and talents of the family to help others?
Each Sunday as you light your Advent Wreath, share your responses to one of the above questions.