The Notre Dame community had two reasons to celebrate during the first week of December: the Christian season of Advent had begun, and it was also Notre Dame Week here in college.
Advent, which begins four Sundays before Christmas, is a time of joyful preparation for Christians, who look forward to celebrating the Nativity, and to the second coming of Jesus. Advent colours are not red or green or gold but pink and purple, as shown by the candles which Christians light on the Sundays leading up to December 25. If you’d like to know a little more about Advent, please watch this two-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S02KOlw7dlA
From that week onwards, our assemblies included the lighting of Advent candles, with Advent services taking place in the last week of term. During those services, we encouraged everyone to sing and pray, and enjoy the sight of our beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Our students and staff donated food and basic household items to our five chosen charities, and we passed on our donations at the end of each service. This year’s charities were:
- St Vincent’s Support Centre, East Leeds. ‘Dedicated to changing lives through advice, support and education.’
- Beacon Leeds. Prevents homelessness by providing ‘Support and accommodation across Leeds.’
- Anne’s Resource Centre. Provides ‘support to homeless people through a drop-in Resource Centre, hostel accommodation and outreach’.
- Nightstop. ‘Places young people who have nowhere to stay in trained volunteers’ spare rooms.’
- St Monica’s Housing for refugees and asylum seekers. ‘Started in December 2010 providing accommodation for women who are seeking asylum in the UK. These women have no access to public funds or housing and are destitute.’
Our staff also enjoyed another celebration that week, as December 8 is the feast day of Notre Dame: that is Our Lady, Mary, the mother of Jesus. In the Catholic tradition each saint has a special day to commemorate them, known as a feast day. As Our Lady’s day fell on a Saturday this year, we celebrated throughout the week but particularly on Friday 7, with staff donating a variety of treats to be shared among us, including a plethora of cakes and delicious handmade samosas.