MARION — Megan Knopf said everyone deserves to experience a wonderful Christmas.
That is why the 17-year-old youth-group member from St. Benedict Parish in Canandaigua participated in the Jan. 3 Three Kings Day celebration with the migrant community at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission at St. Gregory Church.
"When you give gifts and you see (the recipients’) eyes light up, it is so wonderful," Megan added as she placed presents in the church’s pews for families to pick up at the end of the celebration. "I love doing this kind of thing."
Dawn Burdick, a pastoral associate with the Canandaigua parish, said the two communities came together through newly ordained Father Daniel Ruiz-Sierra, pastoral vicar at St. Benedict.
The mission’s Three Kings Day Mass, which was celebrated by Father Ruiz-Sierra, included a re-enactment of the biblical story of the Magi’s visit to present gifts to the baby Jesus.
In his homily, Father Ruiz-Sierra said the story of the Magi shows that no one is outside of God’s love, as the Wise Men were from a different area of the world, a different culture, but still came to honor Jesus.
"The first thing we encounter today is an invitation from God … that we, the Christian community, shine brightly so that the world can come to Jesus" as the Magi did, he said. "The love of God is a gift for all nations."
Father Ruiz-Sierra also encouraged the congregation to remember to let the love of God be their strength and guide through all the difficulties of life, and to ask God before planning or deciding to do anything.
Concern about difficulties being faced by Syrian refugees is what brought St. Benedict closer with the community at the Guadalupe mission, Burdick noted. During recent social-ministry discussions of the refugee crisis, Father Ruiz-Sierra asked the St. Benedict parish community to think about the migrant families in their own backyards, she added.
"Father Daniel said maybe we can help right where we are," Burdick said.
Thus the Three Kings Day project was born, and St. Benedict parishioners responded with an outpouring of support and gifts they began collecting in November, she added.
For the Jan. 3 celebration, about 12 teenagers from the youth group and summer youth program of the Canandaigua parish along with other volunteers helped load and unload the presents for the migrant families, she said. The youths also helped with crafts and activities for the children’s liturgy portion of the Mass.
Following Mass, the youths and volunteers sorted presents to place in the church pews, while the migrant families enjoyed food and fellowship with St. Benedict parishioners.
Families in Mexico to this day receive presents on the feast of the Epiphany, noted Gerardo Mendoza of Michoacan, Mexico, who portrayed one of the Magi during the celebration.
"It’s part of our culture," he said. "Instead of Santa Claus, we do this."