Picturing God’s gifts

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If you've visited St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg recently, you saw the photos of children taped to paper and fastened to the brick walls of the church's sanctuary. Beneath each photo are printed words like "craftsmanship," "music," "leadership" and "mercy."

Father Donald J. Rooney, pastor, refers to the walls as "living stones." The wall of photos is a dramatic expression of the parish's commitment to its "year of favor," an effort to discern how the Holy Spirit is calling parishioners to be the church.

Father Rooney said that 36 percent of the 5,200 families in the parish has been there five years or less. This transiency makes commitment difficult.

Father Rooney said the children's gallery is part of the parish's "Given in Love, Called in Love" theme for 2014-15. Each parishioner has a gift, given by God and waiting to be activated said Father Rooney. He said it's a call to stewardship and service.

Father Rooney shared the theme in a handbook given to all parishioners in August 2014. He wrote bout God's gifts and said that one thing is certain - God is calling.

"For most of us, we just need to pay closer attention," wrote Father Rooney. "Others may have a great awakening as we get to know ourselves better, and in so doing, realize deeper relationships with God and our parish family."

A commitment card accompanied the handbook, and Father Rooney asked that parishioners fill out the card and return it on Commitment Sunday last September.

The student photo project was completed for Family Week celebrations Jan. 5-8. Students from Holy Cross Academy in Fredericksburg and children in the parish's religious education program were asked to write down which of God's gifts they are most thankful for.

Parents of the religious education students came to class with their children during Family Week and toured the gallery of photos.

Father Rooney said the week was also a way to help promote vocations to the religious life. Since Pope Francis declared the period from the first Sunday of Advent Nov. 30, 2014, to the World Day of the Consecrated Life Feb. 2, 2016, as the Year of the Consecrated Life, Family Week activities included a vocational slide presentation.

Family Week was a continuation of the call for commitment extended to students. Father Rooney said feedback was positive. One student said about his photo on the church wall, "I have a place in this church."

Father Rooney said that the photos will stay up through February. When the pictures are there, Father Rooney laughed, "They come to church more."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015