When I taught at Xavier Elementary School, I stood in the hallways the Monday after the last Sunday of Ordinary Time all decked out with my New Year's Eve hat and noisemaker, shouting Happy New Year! The students always got a kick out of it! Their initial reactions of amusement and confusion changed as it dawned on them that yes, in fact, the first day of Advent is the beginning of the Catholic Church's New Year, not January 1.
Pope Francis has dedicated this church year as "The Year of Consecrated Life" in order to recognize the service provided to the world by those who live a consecrated life. The theme for the year is "Wake Up the World!" As a religious sister, I think this is a fitting theme for all Christians. "Wake Up the World" speaks of putting our faith into action. As Christians we are called to start waking up to Jesus' presence in each other and our world in preparation for His birth at Christmas and beyond.
I have already seen many examples in this past month in my current ministry as Assistant Campus Minister at the University of Saint Mary (USM) in Leavenworth, KS, a sponsored work of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (SCL). The USM, SCL, and larger Leavenworth community is waking up to the needs of others locally and internationally: listening to USM alum Alma Habib's talk about Syrian refugees and donating winter clothing items, serving at both the Kansas City, Kansas food kitchen and our Leavenworth Community Meals, packaging food for Ebola crisis centers in Liberia at our Feed the Need event and opening Leavenworth's first homeless shelter called Shelter of Hope. As we continue to wake up to Christ's presence, others will be called to do the same.