Advent: Parishes, schools prepare the way

Advent, the four-week period of prayer and reflection that precedes Christmas and opens the liturgical year, begins Dec. 1.

In addition to lighting candles on the Advent wreath, which symbolizes Christ as the light of the world, Catholics can take other steps to embrace the season and prepare for his coming. Here are four examples, one for each week of Advent.


The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland will hold its annual tree lighting ceremony Dec. 7. (Courtesy Cathedral of Mary Our Queen)

Advent at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland includes a Christmas tree on its plaza, visible from Charles Street. After the 5 p.m. Mass Dec. 7, the faithful are invited to enjoy pizza in the undercroft, sing carols inside the cathedral, then step outside for the annual lighting of the tree. (Registration is recommended. Visit for details.)

That same evening the Catholic Community of Ascension and St. Augustine will hold its 11th annual “Advent by Candlelight,” a cooperative dinner and opportunity to have crèche figurines of the baby Jesus blessed.

Click here for other events.


Most schools and parishes tap into the good will of the season with focused food and gift drives.

Mount St. Joseph High School’s toy drive, which dates at least to the early 1990s, provides age-appropriate gifts for between 70 and 90 families at St. Bernardine in Baltimore. The Catholic High School of Baltimore’s Adopt-a-Family program partners this year with St. Gregory the Great in Baltimore.

At Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Essex, Tricia Baynes took to the ambo Nov. 10 to inform parishioners that while its “Giving Tree” provided for approximately 140 children from area public schools last year, those schools requested help for more than 200 children this year.

“The struggle of getting by on a day-to-day basis is still very prevalent in our community,” Baynes wrote the Review.


St. John the Evangelist in Frederick has a “Come to the Quiet” initiative during Advent. It promotes early arrival, quiet prayer and reflection before Mass. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore is offering a three-part Advent series on “How to Pray and NOT Be Bored!” Dec. 1, 8 and 15, at 1 p.m.

As Christmas grows near, churches schedule penance services and add to their regular schedule for the sacrament of reconciliation.

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Conventual Franciscan Father Justin Ross, the delegate for religious in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, has long been a fan of Matthew Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic brand. In recent years, Father Ross has utilized its “Best Advent Ever,” a free, email-based program (visit

“Best Advent Ever and Best Lent Ever have been a part of my own preparation since 2014,” said Father Ross, who shared them as a pastor in North Carolina and a chaplain at The Catholic University of America. “Every year it has fresh content. If you can find five to 10 minutes each day, it presents a meaningful way to engage this season of preparation for Christmas.”

For more on Advent in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, click here.


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Paul McMullen | Catholic Review

Paul McMullen | Catholic Review

Paul McMullen has served as the managing editor of the Catholic Review since 2008.

The author of two books, Paul has been involved in local media since age 12, when he began delivering The News American to 80 homes in his neighborhood. He began his journalism career with the Capital-Gazette Newspapers in Anne Arundel County, and spent more than 25 years as a sports writer for The Sun in Baltimore. His favorite writing assignments have included the Summer Olympics in Australia and Greece, the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and “Feet for Francis,” a 2015 walking pilgrimage from the Baltimore Basilica to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis.