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January 9, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
Around the Diocese

Advent carols
Sister Rosaline Nguyen lights a candle at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, after reading one of the lessons during the Advent Lessons & Carols evening at the Cathedral of Christ the Light. Sister Rosaline read in Vietnamese, one of seven languages represented. The choir of singers — including children and seasoned veterans — provided the Advent-themed carols for the Dec. 18 event under the direction of Rudy de Vos. Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, presided.
All: Christine Schreck/Special to The Catholic Voice
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Seventh-graders at St. Theresa School in Oakland had a visit from Rev. Jayson Landeza, to whom they had written letters in the wake of his service after the Ghost Ship warehouse fire last month. Homeroom teacher Ken Maas notes it was pajama day at the school.

Lesson learned: Recognizing the gift that you are

Ken Maas, the seventh-grade homeroom teacher at St. Theresa School in Oakland, sent the following letter to the parents of his students before the Christmas break:

It goes without saying that we've all been moved by the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire. Father Jayson Landeza is the chaplain for the Oakland Police Department and the Oakland Fire Department, and was down at the fire site for close to a solid week.

Having known Jayson for quite some time, I asked the students to include him in their prayers. We eventually ended up making him some cards, and mailing them to his parish, St. Benedict in Oakland.

After receiving the cards, Father Jayson contacted me and asked if he could come thank the students in person. I would imagine that seeing the students and answering their questions was a welcome diversion after such a traumatic week. After expressing his appreciation, he answered many questions about his experiences working with grieving families and dedicated first responders.

I have been talking with the students during this Advent season not about the gifts they hope to receive, instead trying to get them to recognize the gifts they are. Each of them has unique gifts, and individually and collectively they're capable of doing so much good for each other. We all are.

I hope they will see that, by performing even a small gesture of kindness, their efforts really made a difference and eased, at least for a while, someone's pain. I'm so pleased they were able to have this lesson come full circle for them before the break.

(Ken Maas teaches social studies and religion at St. Theresa School, in addition to his homeroom duties. He is the coordinator of the Student Leadership Team.)

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