Currents News Staff and Ed Wilkinson
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — In a twilight ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 8, the Diocese of Brooklyn held its annual Christmas tree lighting beneath the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch at Grand Army Plaza.
After it was illuminated, the 27-foot-high Douglas Fir, decorated with 16,000 multi-colored LED lights and accompanied by life-sized Nativity creche figures, was blessed by Bishop Robert Brennan.
Hymns were sung by the Gospel Choir from St. Saviour High School in Park Slope.
The event was sponsored by DeSales Media Group, the technology and communications arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Msgr. Sean Ogle, chairman of the board of DeSales Media, offered the opening prayer, explaining that the tradition of displaying a Nativity scene dates back to 1223, when St. Francis of Assisi brought the idea to life in Greccio, Italy.
Bishop Brennan thanked DeSales Media, the parent company of The Tablet, for continuing to tell “the greatest story ever told.”
“Jesus came in the simplest of ways,” he said. “He was born in a manger, among the poor.”
He urged parishioners to visit the Nativity scenes that will be erected in their parish churches so they can be amazed at the power the Lord brings to everyday living.
Meanwhile, this display would offer a message of hope to all who pass by one of the busiest spots in Brooklyn, Bishop Brennan said. As joggers ran past the site and continuous traffic circled the scene, he remarked that “you can’t have more everyday life than right here in Grand Army Plaza.”
Msgr. David Cassato, vicar for Catholic schools, praised the singing of the young women from St. Saviour’s, mentioning that they represent some of the best students in the Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens.
Bishop Brennan recalled visiting St. Saviour’s on the day of the announcement that he would be the new Bishop of Brooklyn: “It’s good to see you again,” he said.
A video offered welcoming messages to Bishop Brennan from school children throughout the diocese. He said he looked forward to visiting all the schools in that presentation.
“I am overwhelmed by the welcome of the past few days,” Bishop Brennan said.
Christine Persichette, the anchor of Currents News on NET-TV, served as master of ceremonies.
The lighting ceremony was filmed for special programming on NET-TV, the 24-hour cable channel.
The tree lighting came less than one day after a Christmas tree outside the Newscorp building was torched on 6th Avenue in midtown Manhattan.
A diocesan spokesman said police would maintain a 24-hour watch on the exhibit, as they have done in the past. He said heightened security would include new lights that have been installed in the plaza for greater visibility.
Welcoming Bishop Brennan to Brooklyn, NYPD Brooklyn South Chief Michael Kemper said that “an excellent relationship” exists between the NYPD and the Church and it will continue to flourish.
In his remarks, Bishop Brennan encouraged all the faithful to visit the display in Grand Army Plaza this Christmas season and to spend time in prayer at their parish Nativity.