Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 17, 1891 when Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon dedicated St. Bernard Church, Enfield.
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When I was growing up, my parents hosted some unusual parties, typically themed on a historic event that had occurred on the date of the party. I especially remember the President William Henry Harrison Day Party. President Harrison died of pneumonia a month after his bitterly cold inauguration, earning himself the dubious distinction of having the briefest presidential tenure. His entire 31-day presidency was spent in bed.

My dad wrote a lame, but hilarious, poem about President Harrison, then recorded the poem on a 45-rpm disc. (For those readers under age 50, 45s are small, old-fashioned records.) Then he mailed out the 45s, which served as party invitations. Everyone came except a woman who thought the record was junk mail.

Thus began my appreciation of unusual parties.

A generation later, when Peter and I were relative newcomers to town, we got hit with a Nor’easter that dumped 19 inches of snow in a matter of hours. Even if neighbors could clear their driveways, no one was going anywhere because the streets had not been plowed.

After being cooped up all day, it occurred to me that everyone else had been cooped up, too. On a whim, we decided to host a Blizzard Party that evening. We invited every neighbor who could safely walk to our house through the howling winds and snowdrifts.

People brought whatever they had on hand — salad, dessert, paper goods, drinks. I made a huge pot of chili, we shoveled a walkway to the door, built a blazing fire and waited for the party to start.

We had a fabulous time. Neighbors were delighted for an excuse to get out of the house and catch up with friends they hadn’t seen all winter. We ate and drank whatever victuals were provided, which turned out to be a feast. The party was a huge success, repeated many times over the years.

cram 06 0001It was a great idea, if I do say so myself.

In that same era, I again found myself cooped up, but this time it was late at night wrapping Christmas gifts away from the prying eyes of children. This led to another crazy idea. Most of my friends had young children, so they, too, had to sequester themselves for gift-wrapping. Why not do it together?

I reached out to a dozen women, inviting them to the first annual Wrapping Party. I held it two weeks before Christmas, but avoided the first night of Hanukkah. I told them to bring their unwrapped gifts and one roll of wrapping paper to swap (“Santa Claus paper”). I provided all the wrapping essentials and plenty of refreshments.

I cranked up Bing Crosby Christmas tunes, made a pitcher of margaritas and waited.

What if nobody came?

I needn’t have worried. The women loved getting out with friends, while simultaneously completing an important task. They didn’t want to go home.

I recently hosted our 25th annual Wrapping Party. Several times over the years, I’ve broached the fact that we don’t actually need to do this anymore. I mean, it’s not as if we still have small children with prying eyes.

Oh. My. Goodness. You’d think I’d stolen their secret stash of chocolate. While the wrapping element is no longer essential, the social aspect is as important as ever.

So each year, we gather with gifts in tow. We drink less than we used to, and we retire earlier, but we are just as delighted to be together.

William Henry Harrison. Blizzard parties. Christmas wrapping. It’s all about community and friendship.

Regina Cram is a writer, speaker and author. She and her husband live in Glastonbury and have four children and seven grandchildren.

 

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.