Christmas is not just about receiving gifts. It’s also about giving and sharing.
That’s the lesson that the preschoolers of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School in Manteca and the Children’s Center in Tracy learned Saturday. At the 5 o’clock Mass, more than a dozen five-year-olds, accompanied by their teachers and other volunteers, joined the procession at the beginning of the service carrying wrapped gifts for Baby Jesus at the altar. The gifts were placed in and around the “manger” - sans the Baby Jesus - in front of a stable setting with the Blessed Mother.
“That has been my main thing from the beginning. Christmas is about giving, not just receiving,” said Sister Ann Venita who started this annual Baby Shower for Jesus event about half-a-dozen years ago through the church’s Ministry of Caring.
Parishioners are asked to bring the gifts when they come to Mass on Sunday and on Saturday evening. Like any baby shower, the gifts consist of things that infants - as well as toddlers - can use, such as layettes, diapers, formulas, among other things. Cash donations are also welcome.
The baby gifts all go to the Pregnancy Help Center of Manteca, which has been the recipient every year.
This is the third year the Children’s Center in Tracy has taken part in the gift-giving. It was the brainchild of parishioner Loretta Nunez to have her preschoolers take part in this project as part of the children’s lesson about Christmas.
When she saw the children bring their gifts to the altar one year, “I thought it was a beautiful idea to invite my kids as well,” said Nunez of Manteca.
“I want them to know more about Jesus,” she said.
Plus, the event provided them an opportunity to sing one of the songs they’ve learned in class, “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know,” added Nunez, who brought along daughter Adriana and granddaughter Lily, 5 months.
Five-year-old Zoey Ramsey knew why she was bringing a gift to church Saturday evening.
“’Cause it’s Jesus’ birthday,” she said, grinning broadly at her mom, Dara Ramsey.
Brooke Gum’s reason for bringing her gift to Baby Jesus took her mom Jolene Gilbert by surprise. “Because I want Jesus to take my gift to grandpa,” the five-year-old solemnly said.
Gilbert said her father and Brooke’s grandpa died before her daughter was born.