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Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Loving God and neighbor without distinction: A pontifical institute of women religious of the Roman Catholic Church

Year of PeaceYOP columns

Dec. 19, 2014: Sometimes a gift is more than just what’s under the tree, by Sister Jean Rosemarynoski

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski

Christmas is a time when differences seem to melt away and we more readily come together as a human community to care for one another.

The Concordia Year of Peace would like to end 2014 by sharing that kind of story that happened here in Concordia.

One year when the Kids Holiday Store was at Manna House of Prayer, a boy of about 13 came to buy Christmas gifts for his family. He took his time and looked over all the items very carefully. One item in particular — a chessboard with hand-carved wooden pieces — kept drawing him back to it. He very gently picked up the pieces one by one and turned them slowly in his hand, looking at them from all angles.

Then he would put the pieces down and walk around the store again. A couple of times he would walk out the front door and sit on the porch steps. Then he came back in and went over to the chess set.

Finally, I moved over to him and remarked that it was a beautiful set. He seemed pretty interested in it, I said.

He kind of hesitated and then said, “I’m looking at it for my dad. He likes chess and would love this. But… he and I don’t get along. I don’t know.”

We talked for a while longer and then I left him to be with his thoughts. In the end he bought the chess set.

A few months later I had occasion to meet the family. The father and son were together and bantering back-and-forth good-naturedly. As the story unfolded, the simple act of the son handing his father a Christmas gift caused something to break free in both of them.

The son had gotten into trouble — skipping school and breaking the law — and that had been the source of their conflict. The father was so disappointed that he had turned his back on his son and refused to speak to him.

In receiving the gift, the father recognized his son needed him. Wrapped in his father’s embrace, the son realized the pain he caused his dad.

Since that Christmas morning they worked at building a father-son relationship. There were plenty of ups and downs but they kept working at it. As I stood there looking at them, I could not help but think, “Is this not a miracle?”

That’s what Christmas is all about – reconciliation, forgiveness and love. What amazing gifts!

The word Concordia itself comes from the Latin word “concors” with a literal translation meaning “hearts together.” So it is only fitting that Concordians would help bring gifts of unity and reconciliation to those around them.

I have been deeply touched as volunteers have rung the bells for the “red kettles,” carefully chosen ornaments from the many “Giving Trees” or “Angel Trees,” donated to the Kids Holiday Store, supported nonprofit groups at Christmas Tree Lane and so many other generous acts.

Those are the activities that can be seen or counted in some way; what we can’t see and will probably never know are the stories of people reaching out to someone they’ve offended, being more patient than usual, or offering forgiveness, reconciliation and love. I have no doubt those stories, like the one of the boy and his father, will have the most lasting impact.

The Year of Peace wishes you and your family peace and joy. May you experience your own Christmas miracle!


— Sister Jean Rosemarynoski is a member of the Leadership Council of the Sisters of St. Joseph and chairs the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.


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