December 15, 2017

Memories of loved ones and the virtue of hope are focus of inaugural ‘An Evening of Lights’

The Christmas Star overlooks luminarias surrounding a Nativity scene during the Dec. 7 “An Evening of Lights” program at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

The Christmas Star overlooks luminarias surrounding a Nativity scene during the Dec. 7 “An Evening of Lights” program at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Mike Krokos

Advent is a season of hope, and our hope resides in something beyond what the world can offer, something beyond any given moment in this life.

And unlike the secular world where many people think of hope as wishful thinking or feeling, our faith teaches us that it is one of three theological virtues—along with faith and love.

“As the Catechism [of the Catholic Church] reminds us, … these three virtues are the foundation of all other virtues,” said Archbishop Charles C. Thompson to approximately 200 people during the inaugural “An Evening of Lights” program on Dec. 7 in Assembly Hall at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis sponsored by the archdiocesan Catholic Community Foundation (CCF).

Modeled after the annual Vatican Christmas tree lighting and Nativity reflection begun in 1982 by the late St. John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square, the first-ever archdiocesan “An Evening of Lights” event included a reflection by Archbishop Thompson, Scripture, the blessing and lighting of the archdiocese’s Christmas tree, and music by the archdiocesan choral group Vox Sacra.

For the event, members of parishes throughout central and southern Indiana were also able to donate $10 or more to dedicate a luminaria in memory of a loved one. Approximately 160 luminarias were lit and blessed by Archbishop Thompson during the service.

Nearly $2,000 was donated through the event, and CCF will place those monies in the Archdiocesan Growth and Expansion Fund, which supports the growth of parish, school and agency ministries in central and southern Indiana.

Hope is instilled into us by God’s grace, the archbishop said, and especially given to us through sacraments like baptism and confirmation.

“Hope is the conviction of our being,” Archbishop Thompson added, citing Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Saved by Hope.” “God is the foundation of hope, and it’s a God, he says, who has a human face. That’s what makes Christianity unique from any other religion. We don’t have some great prophet or some other figure to represent God to us. We have the face of God in Jesus Christ.”

It is not someone who points to God for us, it is God, the archbishop noted, “the second person of the Holy Trinity, who came and gave his life for us, through the Incarnation, of course, as the Nativity scene reminds us, who died that we may have life.”

Elisa Smith, CCF director, said collaboration played a key role in pulling together what she said will become an annual event.

“[We were able to do this] definitely through the grace of God and through the excellent team that was so dedicated and worked so well together,” she said. “I thought how wonderful would it be for our archdiocese to combine the two [tree lighting and Nativity] into a single event, and have a prayer service remembering our deceased loved ones with a blessing of a Christmas tree and Nativity scene.”

Smith said that the holidays can be a time of sadness and loneliness as people miss loved ones, but noted that programs like this can help people in their time of need.

“This prayer service with Archbishop Thompson’s message of hope brought these individuals together and gave them comfort in knowing that the Church is there for them during this season and always,” she said.

Mary Schliessmann lit a luminaria in honor of her late husband, Jack, who died in 2011.

“Time goes so fast for me, and Advent was so special growing up, as was Lent,” said Schliessmann, a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. “I thought this was a nice thing to do.”

Tom Hirschauer, also a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, said Archbishop Thompson’s message resonated with him.

“The whole thought about hope and what Christ brings to us in hope came through clearly,” he said, “in the fact that our hope is that we will, in fact, be together with our families some day soon.”

Hope, Archbishop Thompson noted, is that firm conviction that God is always with us.

“As we gather here tonight, we celebrate that assurance of eternal life for each person represented by these luminaries, and for each one of us,” Archbishop Thompson said.

“Even in the midst of our sadness, of our grieving, we celebrate our hope, our confidence, our trust, our conviction, by God’s grace, that we will see our loved ones again, in the kingdom of heaven,” he continued.

“And our hope, and our trust, and our conviction is, that when we do see them again face to face, as we have seen the face of God in Jesus Christ, there are no more goodbyes, no more farewells, no more tears.”

(For more information on the archdiocesan Catholic Community Foundation, visit

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