Equity and Inclusion


In response to the proposal from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that congregations focus on the dismantling of racism, the Adrian Dominican Sisters began by identifying resources that can assist us in raising our consciousness of white privilege and white supremacy, both personally and systematically.

Since January 2021, our Toward Communion: Undoing Racism and Embracing Diversity Committee and our Justice Promoters have collaborated on a project to provide information on prominent Black and Indigenous Catholics who have made significant contributions to the church and society, along with reflection questions and a prayer.

In May of 2022, Kevin D. Hofmann was named the founding Director of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion for the Congregation. With the goal of normalizing conversations about race and culture and discussing what it means to feel included and excluded, Kevin began contributing to this blog in June of 2022 and shares his unique experience of growing up Black in a white family in Detroit.

 

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Christmas from a Different Angle

A crowd gathers in front of a church at nighttime lit up by christmas lights for simbang gabi

Photo: St. Anthony Padua Parish Church in the Philippines decorated for Simbang Gabi, by Patpat nava, CC BY-SA 4.0.

 

Christmas from a Different Angle

By Kevin Hofmann 
Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion

As Christmas draws closer, I thought it would be great to hear from one of our international Sisters on how she and her family celebrate Christmas in their country. Sister Bless Colasito from the Philippines was kind enough to share. Wouldn’t it be great to incorporate some of her traditions here in Adrian?

If anyone else would like to share their international Christmas traditions, please let me know. I would love to include your stories.

Christmas in the Philippines - By Sister Bless Colasito, OP

The Filipino tradition of celebrating Christmas starts when the "Ber" months come. When the calendar turns to September 1, Filipino homes, malls, stores, and institutions will be playing Christmas carols. As we engagingly say, "Christmas is on the air" and people start to plan for Christmas; godparents prepare Christmas presents for their godchildren when they come on Christmas day for a visit, families start to set up Christmas decorations on their homes, and streets are lit up with Christmas lanterns. Television and radio stations will engage in a 100-day countdown till Christmas Day. This Filipino way of Christmas preparation can be unusually long. However, as a people, we just enjoy the spirit of Christmas from September to December, long as it may be. Besides the abovementioned preparations, we Filipinos also engage in other traditional practices as part of our preparation for the Christmas season.

Simbang Gabi is the traditional nine-day novena of masses before Christmas. For nine days, Filipinos attend Mass in churches closest to them. The whole family attends this Mass and in case parents are not available, the younger members of the family will come to church with their friends. Simbang Gabi is also a time for older people to come to church in groups or as individuals. Simbang Gabi may start either the eve of December 15 as an anticipated Mass or at a dawn Mass on December 16. The Mass celebrated on December 15 will end as a nine-day novena on the eve of December 23, while the dawn Mass that starts on December 16 will complete the nine-day novena on the morning of December 24. Filipino has always had the intention to finish the nine-day novena as it promises a "wish come true" if one completes the novena Masses.

Simbang Gabi also serves as an occasion for the renewal of relationships and friendships among families with other families, among family members, and among friends. Simbang Gabi has a healing effect in broken relations among family members, individuals, and the community.

During the nine-day novena Masses, after the Eucharistic celebration, people go out from the Church to find a variety of food mostly sweets like puto-bumbong, bibingka, and tsokolate and other delicacies, which are usually available in the area from local food vendors who sell these foods until the streaks of dawn or until they sell out of everything. Below are the foods available for sale during the nine-day novena masses.

puto bumbong bibingka

Puto Bumbong

"puto bumbong" by tacit requiem (joanneQEscober ) is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Bibingka

"Bibingka" by georgeparrilla is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

 

Kutsinta

"Kutsinta" by Herbertkikoy is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Tsokolate

"duman in tsokolate" by chotda is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Pandesal

"PANDESAL" by whologwhy is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Suman

"Ibos Suman" by Kguirnela is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.
 

 

Caroling was one of my happy memories of Christmas as a child. As children, my sisters and I will go with our friends to sing carols in the neighborhood. While some groups of Filipinos would go caroling during the season for fund-raising purposes, for us, we just did it for fun. After caroling, we would run to the store and buy ourselves candies or anything we want if our funds allowed. Caroling was also an occasion for me and my sisters to bond with the other girls in the neighborhood.

Noche Buena is the most awaited meal of the year for us Filipinos. This is the meal on the eve of Christmas where the whole family and visitors if there are any gather to share a meal together accompanied by laughter and merrymaking. The members of the family are all involved in the preparation for this evening meal, usually eaten after the Christmas eve Mass. Every Filipino family, poor and rich, prepares Noche Buena more than the usual food families prepare daily during the year, including the lechon or roasted pig. Workplaces before they take a break for Christmas will also prepare a feast for their employees as a sign of gratitude and goodwill.

Aguinaldo means gift giving and receiving. Christmas is the most awaited season of the year for everybody. During this season, employees get their bonuses and Christmas presents from their employers. Children await Christmas gifts from their parents, siblings, godparents, and friends. Everybody gets a present during Christmas no matter how meager the resources are in the family..

Monita or Monito, which is equivalent to Kris Kringle in other cultures, is also a fun thing for us Filipinos. Weeks before Christmas, families and workplaces engage in drawing names of a family member or an officemate. The name of the person that somebody picked is secret until the time of the revelation when everybody will know who Monita or Monito is. An amount decided by the group is set as a limit (can be more but not less) to buy a gift for whomever one has picked. This trick of fun always stimulates joy and excitement during the Christmas season.

Media Noche is the meal on New Year’s Eve that carries so many beliefs and superstitions among Filipinos. For example, members of the family will gather twelve kinds of round fruits to symbolize financial prosperity and abundant food on the table ensures an abundant year. Like the Christmas Eve food served on tables, Media Noche also highlights so much food at every Filipino table during the celebration of the New Year.

Feast of the Three Kings or the Feast of Epiphany is a celebration that signals we are nearing the end of the season of Christmas, though liturgically the season of Christmas ends only after the Sunday celebration of the Baptism of Jesus. In the Philippines, there are Churches that reenact the appearance of the Three Wise Men by dressing children in different costumes representing countries in the world. I remember as a child I always joined the United Nations group and dressed up in either Chinese or Japanese attire. For us children then, it was really fun dressing up as somebody who is coming from another country.

Large shapes of Christmas trees, flowers, and the words

The Pan-Philippine Highway in Angeles City decorated for Christmas
(photo by Ramon FVelasquez, CC BY-SA 3.0)

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