A Reflection on Loyola's Presence for Christmas Program
Whether you’re ready for it or not, the holiday season is about to shift into high gear. I had the opportunity to have a good conversation with a recent Loyola alum about the annual Presence for Christmas program, and she reflected on the upcoming weeks. “I always felt that Presence for Christmas was one of the best traditions at Loyola,” she said, “because it put all of the holiday craziness into perspective and reminded me that the needs of others are most important.” This year, the Loyola Community will provide holiday meals and gifts for more than 600 children and families—a moving display of generosity, good will and real presence to local neighbors in need. Taken as a whole, this generosity is a symbolic way of saying that the holidays are less about stuff and more about people. Of course, the holiday meals and gifts are more than symbolic; they are quite real. They provide nourishment and a sense of normalcy to families struggling to manage tight budgets and take care of basic expenses. The donations offer a momentary relief from the many demands of the holidays. What might have been a trying time in a family instead turns into a moment of tenderness and hope.
Presence for Christmas also offers a number of opportunities and challenges for our campus community. As some of my Jesuit friends like to say, the real challenge we have as people of good will is to “situate ourselves in the place of another.” While those of us in comfortable, financially secure situations might not fully grasp the reality of economic stress, we can stand in solidarity with those who do. In our comfort, we can ask why people struggle in the first place, particularly those in our urban centers. Presence for Christmas allows participants to engage in the life of another child or family, temporarily transcending our own needs and attending to the needs of others. Presence for Christmas presents the opportunity to act. Even through a simple shopping trip, one makes a gesture that says “I’m willing to spend my time to give someone I don’t know a moment of joy.” And, finally, Presence for Christmas provides an opportunity to share in the life of many community partner agencies around Baltimore. With the College as a partner, agencies like Beans and Bread, St. Ambrose Center and St. Jerome’s Head Start find support in their efforts to build strong families, strengthen communities and promote lifelong learning.
On behalf of CCSJ and all those involved with Presence for Christmas, thanks for helping to emphasize the true meaning of this hopeful season.
Center for Community Service and Justice
Return to Presence for Christmas Main Page