December Life and Justice Ideas

Advent Greetings!

As the warmth of Thanksgiving continues, let us take a moment to pause and reflect on the many blessings God has bestowed upon us.  This past weekend, we also entered a new liturgical year and the Advent season provides us with an opportunity to prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming.

On behalf of the Office of Lifelong Faith Formation and the Life & Justice area, under Larry DiPaul’s direction, I send a few additional points to ponder and share with your parish community this Advent/Christmas Season.  Please consider including one or all of the topics below in bulletin announcements, or share the list on your website, Facebook or Twitter accounts.  In the midst of life, our church year provides us an opportunity to recall that we too are called to be Jesus in a world looking to experience Him.

Advent Ideas for Families – taking advantage of gift giving and the opportunity to highlight things families could do together this season. 

  • Draw on current news stories and relate social teachings to the issues and decisions.  Discussion of issues such as violence, war, abortion, racism, immigration, the environment, bullying and the death penalty are important.

The Archdiocese of Minneapolis has a website that may help provide discussion starters: 

  • When donating to a food drive, explore with the family the issue of hunger.
  • Develop Family Community Day – a day of service to the community in which everyone has an opportunity to care for those in need.

Here are some possible suggestions in the Camden & Bridgeton areas, however; there are so many places throughout the diocese that families may volunteer. One could first check with their local nursing home about volunteering.

New Visions Community Services of Camden
Contact person:  Kevin Moran
Phone:  (856) 963-8726
City of Camden

This is a shelter for the homeless.  If parents are comfortable, it’s actually a good place for kids. The folks there really love to see and interact with children. Families can help prepare meals, serve food, and chat with guests. At times, they also use help sorting clothes and cleaning etc.

Genesis Elder Care
Contact person:  Diane Dalessandro
Phone:  (856) 665-8844

Collingswood/Pensauken across the street from Cooper River Park
This is a home for people who are no longer able to take care of themselves; they are mostly elderly, but not entirely. They can accommodate a lot of volunteers. As a volunteer, you get to play games with and chat with residents.  They would also really love to be around children.

Center for Environmental Transformation – Eve’s Garden
Contact person:  Andrea Ferich
South Camden, Sacred Heart Catholic Church

They do a lot of gardening work– I’m not sure when these family days would be held, but if they’re during the right season, gardening could be a great family task.

Francis House HIV/AIDS
Contact person:  Susan Piliro
Phone:  (856) 541-5000
St. Anthony’s of Padua Catholic Church, East Camden

Two days a week (generally on Tuesdays and Thursdays) Francis House uses volunteers to help spend time with guests.

Good Shepherd Dining Room
The Good Shepherd Dining Room is run by the Saint Vincent De Paul Society and housed in Saint Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church in Bridgeton. The St.Vincent De Paul Society is a lay organization started by a college student, Fred Ozinam, who saw the need to help the poor. Their Good Shepherd Meal Program has been serving meals to the less fortunate in this area since 1980. With the help of Green Thumb workers and volunteers, 20,000 – 21,000 meals are served each year.
Meals are served Monday thru Friday from 1:00pm – 2:00pm. Food, time and/or monetary donations are graciously accepted. New members are also welcome.

• Never allow for racially or ethnically derogatory comments or jokes.  Confront other adults who do this and let children hear your objection. 

• Work at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter as a family (Charity) and work to create housing, employment and just policies for those without adequate housing (e.g. make a contribution to Habitat for Humanity.) 

• As a gift during the Advent/Christmas Season, write out a family commitment form.  For example – “In my/our attempt to do justice, I/we will”…..or “In our attempt to serve the poor and vulnerable, I/we will share more time and talent by”….(Have family members signs on.)

• Consider Alternative Christmas Gifts.  Choose a meaningful gift to give a loved one and consider helping children and families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant.  Visit Heifer International for more information at

• St. Nicholas saw Christmas as a time to care for the poor.  If you are looking to live the spirit of St. Nicholas this Christmas, consider some alternative gifts that care for the poor and inspire compassion in others:
SHOP ONLINE? Give the gift of life through Catholic Relief Services
( and their partner SERRV ( or purchase a life-sustaining gift through the Heifer Project. Families who receive a Heifer gift frequently pay it forward in ways that benefit an entire village.  Check out dozens of gifts that make a difference from Oxfam America Unwrapped (  Whether it’s a grove of miracle trees ($35), a goat ($50), or even a pile of manure ($12); there is something for everyone.  Or Mercy Kits, an alternative gift giving program, from Mercy Corps that helps to build up people (  These are all Fair Trade possibilities.

Thank you for sharing these ideas.  May you and yours have a blessed Advent Season.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Peace and all good things,
Greg Coogan