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After Advent, Christmas and Epiphany

by Sr. Rita Van Damme, icm

I am looking through the window, enjoying the mini-snowflakes which dance through the sky, softly landing on the ground, disappearing, and making room for others, and this makes me reflect upon the Christmas Season which just closed.

Advent and Christmas are past, but the memories of this beautiful season remain with us. Our friends in various parishes shared with me how Advent was celebrated among them, and I pass it on to you all. 

As every year, a common theme led us to a deeper awareness of the poverty still present in our own country, and the need to help, so that Christmas may bring new life to all. The poster below was spread everywhere - a picture of someone holing the umbrella of social welfare, supposed to protect all against poverty. But the umbrella is full of holes, and a high number of people are not protected.

advent 1

“Everyone protected against poverty? - Social injustice affects 1 out of every 7 persons in our country”, it reads.

Iedereen beschermd tegen armoede?

Belgium is a wealthy country. Brussels is the capital of Europe, and the people of Flanders see themselves as belonging to the top region in Europe. In spite of this, more than 1.6 million people are poor, which accounts for 15 % of the population.  How is this possible? 

Responding to the Call of Social Justice

What happened in some parishes around Belgium?

In Roeselare Advent wreaths were sold in support of the missionaries.

advent 2


A prayer service was held in Bruges, which accentuated the need to approach the poor as persons worthy of respect. The theme: 

“ An angel appeared in a dream and said: 'Be not afraid; stand up!’”

Warm soup was served at various points.  While providing a hearty snack for the poor, at the same time this was also a source of income for those who lent a helping hand.

advent 3

Various personal initiatives sprang up like mushrooms. In Roeselare a concert was held.

advent 3

Myriam De Meester, as always concerned about the needs of the ICM missionaries, discovered that projects are needed in order to support our sisters.  Art from the east inspired her to make beautiful cards, which were sold in support of our ICM sisters in Congo and India.

advent 4

Christmas cribs are loved everywhere, and these two people decided to exhibit their collection of a lifetime.   

advent 5

Jacqueline Lievens and Remi Heulbosch happily shared:  When our children were small,  every year we set our crib in the living room.  When later on we began to travel,  we began to collect typical Christmas cribs from all over the world. It is a special way of discovering something of the culture of a people, for the figures prominent  around the baby Jesus tell us something of the life of the people in those countries as well.

advent 6

ICM Initiatives

So far these have been parish initiatives but we ourselves, ICM sisters,  gave our own contribution.  I know that many of our sisters made a solid gift from their pocket money, but one initiative drew attention: 

As you know, leisure time activities are important where many elderly people live together -  and so it happened that, as every year, we too made an exhibition: 

exhibit 1

Embroidery and lace, knitting and crochet, jewelry, quilt-making, toy-making,  and card-making, many, many cards, they filled the tables of our big conference hall.

exhibit 2

exhibit 3


This year we too chose to sell our products and donate our gain to the advent actions.  

exhibit 4

And as we enjoyed all the year through many hours of creative pleasure, we hope that others will enjoy our gift this Christmas Season. 

After Christmas

New year came and went, and soon after, we celebrated Epiphany. During these past dark days,  many helpers in the various projects described above spent time with lonely people,  the sick and the elderly who were unable to leave their home. 

A typical happening this season was ‘Star singing’.  Various groups of children go from door to door singing songs, asking the people to contribute to their project: ‘Children for Children’. This initiative of Missio supports children in third world countries.

Everyone indeed was busy spending the Christmas season meaningfully!  

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