Disability Services, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland celebrated its 34th annual Journey to Bethlehem Dec. 1 at St. Augustine Church in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.
Marilyn Scott, Disability Services director, welcomed all to the celebration, which traditionally takes place the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent. Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries celebrated the Mass, with Father Joe McNulty, St. Augustine pastor, and Father Ben Jimenez, SJ St. Augustine parochial vicar, as concelebrants. Deacon Ray Daull assisted. The church was decorated with poinsettia plants and some in the congregation wore red or other seasonal clothing to add to the festive atmosphere.
Many of those who are served by Disability Services participated in the Mass. Some were lectors while others brought up the offertory gifts. As is traditional, the offertory procession included a number of people bringing figures for the Nativity scene to Bishop Gries who passed them to Scott. She then placed the figures in the manger near the altar.
During his homily, Bishop Gries told the congregation he had to get his prop as he displayed a crisp $100 bill.
“I bet all of you would like to have this,” he said. “Not me,” one woman answered. “I like you,” the bishop said laughing,
He compared the new $100 bill to Jesus, noting that at one time, he was fresh and new and many people followed him.
“The good news is that God loves us,” he said. “He loves us so much that he sent his only son to us. Praying and singing at Mass today is a way to thank God for that,” he said.
But as life moves on, Bishop Gries said we can get dirty, crumpled and worn. The same thing happens to that $100 bill — and it happened to Jesus. As we move through the next four weeks of Advent, the bishop said there will be no more prophets telling us of Jesus’ coming. Instead, John the Baptist tells us to prepare the way.
“We’re a family. I love all of you and you hopefully love me,” he said, wishing those assembled a beautiful Christmas.
After Mass, Scott thanked those who assisted with the celebration, including Patrick Gareau, president and CEO, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland. The choir from St. John Vianney Parish, directed by Bill Rebol, provided music for the liturgy. Several diocesan seminarians also assisted with the Mass.
In addition, she said Sister Corita Ambro, CSJ, St. Augustine Parish and Lauren Mailey, program director for Disability Services, also provided assistance for the event.
“We couldn’t have done it without you,” Scott said. This is her first year heading Disability Services. Previously, she was program director for the ministry, which was headed for many years by Dennis McNulty, prior to his retirement earlier this year.
After Mass, the congregation moved to the church hall for fellowship and a light box lunch.