Brooklyn Boro

Faith In Brooklyn for Dec. 24

December 24, 2015 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Monastery of the Most Precious Blood, in Borough Park, as pictured in 2012. Brooklyn Eagle Photo by Josh Ross
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Christmas Services and Programs

This year’s 5 p.m. Candlelight Christmas Eve program at First Unitarian Church will feature new arrangements of carols and spirituals as well as a touch of contemporary gospel.

Excerpts from larger works will include Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio,” Vaughan-Williams’ “Fantasia on Christmas Carols” and Praetorius’ “Mussae Sioniae.” Several stand-alone arrangements of Christmas favorites will feature more contemporary composers and arrangers, including Burt, Dawson, Gjeilo and First U’s music director Adam Podd.

Podd will conduct the First Unitarian Choir and featured vocalists Wayne Arthur Paul (baritone), Brandon Selvin-Hornsby (tenor), Liz Bachman Thompson (mezzo), Melissa Paul-Perez (mezzo), and Candice Helfand-Rogers (soprano). Brass quartet and the church’s historic Mann & Trupiano pipe organ will also be featured.

Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons, First Unitarian’s senior minister, will offer a Christmas homily with lessons and readings of the season.

“We are eagerly getting ready for the holiday season,” said Levy-Lyons. “Every year we look forward to being part of the Christmas Eve tradition of so many local families”

An additional family service featuring familiar carols and stories of the season is planned for 4 p.m. in the chapel adjacent to the main sanctuary building. Meagan Henry, First Unitarian’s director of education ministries, said, “Last year, we decided to offer a more casual service especially for families with children. It was successful beyond our wildest dreams, so we knew we had to make it a tradition. We are planning a worship that will celebrate the Christmas season in a way that is approachable for children of all ages.”

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Christmas Eve at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Carroll Gardens will include music of the Spanish world.

A prelude of carols, starting at 10:45 p.m., precedes the Solemn Mass of Christmas Midnight, actually starting at 11 p.m. on Dec. 24. The Mass setting is from Brooklyn native composer David Hurd’s St. Paul’s Service, anthems by Juan Perez de Bocanegra and Ariel Ramírez, Hanancpachap Cussicuinin, La Peregrinación (The Pilgrimage) and El Nacimiento (The Birth).

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DeSales Media Launches Prayer Site For the Diocese of Brooklyn

DeSales Media Group recently launched a new bilingual online prayer community entitled Pray For Me (Reza por Mí). Accessible at, the site enables users to submit their own intentions and also to pray for others who have posted on the site.

“Inspired in Pope Francis’ prayer request refrain ‘Please, pray for me,’ we wanted to provide a place where people can request prayers as well as pray for each other’s intentions. Pray For Me is very simple to use, to ask for support, pray for one another and create a community of prayer,” said Msgr. Kieran Harrington, chair of DeSales Media Group, the diocesan communications and technology arm.

Pray For Me provides a uniquely Catholic aspect to prayer intentions. The Sisters Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, a contemplative order of nuns cloistered in Borough Park, pray for all submitted intentions from 5:45 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day. DeSales Media submits intentions on a daily basis to the nuns, who spend their lives in silence, adoration of Christ and prayer.

According to the order’s website, the name of Servants (Servidoras) is “a reference to the faithful women who stood at the foot of the cross (Luke 8: 1-3) and the term used by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort in his True Devotion, 56.” This is an international order for women religious with communities in the U.S., Canada, Guyana, Mexico and Suriname. Brooklyn alone has four communities: Contemplative Monastery “St. Edith Stein” at the Monastery of the Precious Blood in Borough Park; the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Community serving St. Gabriel, St. John Cansius and St. Michael parishes in East New York; and the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Community serving Sts. Peter and Paul in Williamsburg. Another community, named for St. Rose Duchesne, serves St. Paul parish in East Harlem.

The site features two options: “Request a Prayer” and “Pray for Someone.” Users select a prayer topic (Depression, Grief, Family, Finances, Healing, Marriage, Vocations, etc.), then type in their personal message, and select whether they would like their prayer posted on the page so community members can pray for them. There is also an option to email the intention to the person that one is praying for. In addition, users can choose to pray for another person (intercede) by reading the intentions listed on the right-hand side of the site, and clicking the “I prayed for you” button.

To submit a prayer and/or pray for someone’s intentions, visit

DeSales Media is the communications and technology arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn, publishing Catholic news, information, entertainment and religious programming across all media. Their properties include the weekly diocesan newspaper The Tablet, the monthly Hispanic newspaper Nuestra Voz, the cable network New Evangelization Television NET TV and the Catholic Telemedia Network (CTN).

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Milestones in Faith

Dec. 25 Is Founding Day for Two Local Congregations

December 25 may have been the day chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus, whom Christians believe is the Son of God who came to the world to reconcile God to humankind. However, the early Christian Church did not commemorate the birth of Jesus at all until the fourth century Common Era. They considered to be more important the Resurrection of Christ, which commemorates the central belief of Christianity, that he conquered death.

The date Dec. 25 for Christmas was set during the era of Constantine to Christianize a pagan holiday, as Christ was deemed to be the light of the world in a time of the year that needed light most.

However, locally in Brooklyn, Dec. 25 has special significance to at least two congregations —one Jewish and the other Christian — that were each founded on that date.

The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue was founded on the first night of Chanukah (also spelled Hanukkah) in 1959, which happened that year to fall on Dec. 25 at sundown. The congregation first held services at neighboring congregations, particularly Grace Church, an Episcopal parish on Hicks Street that formed a strong bond with the synagogue. The two congregations jointly sponsor programs to this day.

The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue eventually purchased a brownstone at 117 Remsen St. When the growing congregation needed more space, it purchased the old Brooklyn Club, a few yards away, at 131 Remsen St., in 1996. The BHS then sold 117 Remsen St. to Congregation B’nai Avraham so that the Orthodox Jewish community could also have its own home.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Carroll Gardens was founded on Dec. 25, 1849. The building was designed by Richard Upjohn & Son in the High Victorian Gothic style, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. The church, with its beautiful acoustics, is also a venue for concerts and music series.



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