The first Sunday of Advent falls on Dec. 2 this year.
Eleven years ago, the first time she was in charge of the Advent wreath-making workshop at Holy Spirit Parish/Newman Hall in Berkeley, Frances Rojek knew how to ask for help.
"The first year I was there, there was someone who used to do it," the faith formation director said. But there were no written instructions on how to get the materials required for the annual event.
"Oh, God, please help me," she prayed. "What am I going to do?"
The answer was clear. "It dawned on me to go to a Christmas tree farm," she said.
At the Antioch tree farm she found "a wonderful tree, paid for it and asked the tree folks to chop it up for me."
She then piled all that greenery in her car for the ride to Berkeley, which she has done every year since, except for the year an early Advent found the tree farm not yet open for business. Rojek's husband bought a tree at a grocery store, and had to take it home and chop it up himself.
Rojek's determination helps keep a tradition alive at the Berkeley parish, which sets aside the Monday evening before the first Sunday of Advent for the making of wreaths.
This year, Advent begins Dec. 2.
Over the course of two hours, parishioners — students, young families and longtime Newmanites — come to a room set up with greenery, ribbons, candles and wire rings.
The wire rings and four candles — three purple and one pink — are available for a donation. Some veteran wreath-makers bring the wire base back year after year.
Participants also bring cookies to share, and warm beverages fight back the chill of a soon-to-be-winter evening.
"People like that Monday evening before the first Sunday," Rojek said. "It triggers that calendar within us," she said.
"I remember one year in December, I decided to do an intergenerational catechesis on a Sunday," she said. People were "not happy about that."
On that Monday evening, greens are woven and tied to circular wire frames, and stories told and friendships renewed. Rev. Al Moser, whose ministry at Newman spans three decades, blesses the Advent wreaths that will go to houses, apartments and dorm rooms.
"Students do like to have the wreath in their dorm or their apartment," Rojek said.
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