By Mr. Kaybee de Ocampo
Lay mission partner
Don Bosco Caritas, Santa Rosa,Philippines, 24 December 2022 -- Truly, there is a lot of imagery brought by Christmas. Santa, lights, carols, and gifts have created the popular picture and culture that we all are very much a part of. This is far removed from the genuine root of Christmas, as our Catholic tradition, where we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Angels heralded the news to shepherds in a field, who found him wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a humble manager. In that silent and cold night, in a very mundane and simple way, God came majestically to mankind. Then, as now, it is a time of revelation, awe, and joy.
At Caritas Don Bosco School, Christmas is always a very festive season. Plenty of gifts, food, and partying used to be the norm. After all, embedded in the Philippine culture are lavish, sometimes ostentatious, Christmas celebrations. Since 2016, through the school’s challenging yet much-needed discernment of its core values, it has ushered practices and traditions truly aligned with self-sacrifice, obedience, respect, integrity, simplicity, and excellence. Led by the Caritas Sisters of Jesus, lay mission partner teachers and staff, parents and alumni, including learners have come up with revolutionary ways to celebrate and rediscover Christmas.
For a few years now, learners have shunned traditional gift exchange. Preparing messages in hand-crafted cards or do-it-yourself gifts have been the practice to steer from the commercialization and ostentation of expensive gift-giving. One grade 8 learner shared that merry-making and fellowship through games and togetherness are more important than exchanging gifts. At the same time, teachers and employees have participated in the (becoming) annual Christmas outreach challenge. Groups from the educative pastoral council come together to bring joy to selected advocacies of the school including the environment, marginalized youth, indigenous people, and family ministry. The various outreach activities are planned organically and conducted to nearby communities, sometimes even targeting those within the institution, to bring the spirit of joy of Christmas. During the school Christmas party, groups present videos of their outreach projects and meaningfully share their insights and reflections.
One teacher’s realization is that reaching out is not difficult and it is good to be the source of joy for others. Almost all stakeholders participate. The parent-teacher council conducted internal and external Christmas-outreach activities. They were able to benefit security guards and non-teaching employees of the school and conduct gift distribution to the really needy communities chosen by the parent-teacher council. Student leaders and alumni organized a Christmas fellowship for the marginalized youth inspired by Don Bosco’s oratory including catechism and provision of their essential needs for a decent and remarkable family Christmas celebration.
The Voces Inspirare (school choir) and Robotics Team teamed up for a light and choral show to benefit the school’s Batholomew Garelli Project, an education fund for needy senior high school learners. It goes without saying then, that at Caritas Don Bosco School, Christmas is for the poor, Christmas is with the poor. The whole community is united in its belief that it is in giving that we receive. Caritas is the spirit that school members share with others. By celebrating simply and meaningfully, they welcome Christ once more in the genuine spirit by which He first came to mankind. Christmas means Jesus, new traditions, family, reflection, love, giving, and meaningful festivities. Regardless of how pop culture paints Christmas, the expressions of joy and love are felt as much through outward gestures as it is within.
Merry Christmas 2022!